The times in which we are currently living are very different from the ways many of us grew up. We now live in a world dominated by technology, consumed with materialism, and vibing hate, fear, and competition. For those of us raising children, we have an urgent responsibility to prepare our children to live in this world so that they may thrive. But how do we know what skills are most important to teach our kids? What do they really need?
Here is a list of the top skills that I believe that children need in order to thrive in modern times:
The Ability to Communicate
Both oral and written communication skills are essential. Kids must find their voice from a young age, and then learn how to express that voice in a meaningful way. Expressing through video games, texting, or other artificial means, robs your child of the opportunity to develop these important skills.
The Ability to Listen
Just as important as it is to express oneself is the ability to listen--the ability to really hear another person and their viewpoints objectively. This is also about learning to listen to oneself—to reflect on, and respond appropriately to one’s own internal voice.
The Ability to Collaborate with Others
Increasingly all work is being done collaboratively in the world. This means that your child needs experience now with working in groups, sharing ideas, managing group dynamics, and understanding and navigating social nuances. Your child needs to learn how to become comfortable being placed in uncomfortable situations with new people who may not necessarily be like-minded or share the same values and beliefs. Your child socializing in chat rooms or group gaming does not substitute for meaningful in-vivo opportunities to collaborate with others.
The Ability to be Mindful & Present
This skill is about being aware of the present moment and not to judge but to allow. The benefits of mindfulness are tremendous and very well-documented, and certainly a subject about which I frequently write and talk about. But the for the sake of this writing, the key skill is learning how to step out of the hamster wheel of the mind, to not get caught up in worrying about the future or ruminating about the past. Instead, learning to be here, in the now, attentively, and how to experience the most out of whatever is happening in your life at any given moment.
The Ability to Regulate and Manage Emotions
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is far more important than Cognitive Intelligence (IQ). In fact, EQ is actually the foundation upon which IQ can develop. EQ is defined as the ability to identify our own emotions and those of others, to self-motivate, and to monitor our own emotions as well as the emotions of others. Out of EQ comes self-awareness, empathy, emotional regulation, ability to enter into relationships with others, social skills, and cognitive abilities. Children from an early age need to learn how to recognize emotions, label their feelings, express them in a healthy way, and reason and problem solve with those emotions.
The Ability to Tolerate Frustration, Fears, & Failure
Life is chock full of moments in which we are denied what we really want or our best efforts still lead to failure. It is critical that children learn how to manage frustration and failure in a healthy way. Furthermore, life is scary and kids need to learn what they can do to manage those fears and still live a fruitful life even when fear appears. Despite how much love we have for our children, we cannot protect them from every unpleasant moment. In fact, we should allow those unpleasant moments to happen so that our children can practice these skills.
The Ability to Make Decisions
Information is constantly swarming around us and we have to evaluate that information in order to make decisions. Decisions must be made by using our wise minds—the intersection of our rational minds and our emotional minds. This is about considering information objectively, checking in with our rational/logical/intellectual minds, and also checking in with our emotional minds. Children need to learn to ask themselves, “What do I think, and what do I feel,” and then be confident enough to make the best decision they can in the moment with the information they have available to them at that time.
The Ability to Think Critically
Critical thinking is about asking really good questions. It is not memorizing rote facts and regurgitating them. Being a true consumer of information and seeing the information from all angles and perspectives before forming one’s own opinion is the basis of critical thinking.
The Ability to Entertain Oneself and Manage Unstructured Time
There has accumulated an abundance of research on the effects of structured and unstructured play on child development. Collectively the research strongly supports the need for children to participate in unstructured time in their day. The more unstructured time, the better the development of self-directed executive functions; meaning kids become more independent, better able to plan, organize, problem solve, and make decisions. When not every routine and detail is planned for them, kids have to learn how to do it for themselves. They will not learn these skills by relying on a device whenever they have to wait for something or whenever there is downtime.
The Ability to Persevere with Grit
Life constantly presents challenges and adversity. We need to inoculate our children with the proper dose of inner resiliency now so that they can persevere regardless of what curve-balls life may throw at them. An analogy I use here is of a tree---a healthy nourished tree may waver in the wind, but it always returns back to center. An unhealthy tree, on the other hand, snaps and breaks in the wind. We need to teach our kids how to persevere and be resilient, how to have inner “grit” so that they may bend, but they won’t break.
Strong Moral Compass
Kids need to develop a value system and those values become their compass to guide them in life. Contrary to what many think, you don’t need to believe in a formal organized religious system in order to have values and a strong sense of morality. Kids need to have a sense of what is inherently right and wrong, and a sense of what the consequences will be if they do not follow their moral code. They should see this compass as being with them and a part of them all of the time. Kids should ask themselves, “Will this decision/doing this or that, bring me in the right direction in life?” The moral compass will prevent them from getting lost.
The Ability to be Kind & Compassionate
This is about seeing oneself as connected with the larger world. This is the ability to show kindness and compassion even in the face of anger or hurt. It is an underlying respect for all living things regardless of differences.
The Ability to be Empathic
Empathy is about placing oneself in someone else’s shoes. It is the ability to take the perspective of the other, and suspending one’s own feelings and beliefs in order to do so. This is critical for our world to survive and kids need to practice this at a young age. Related is the ability for kids to take ownership of their behaviors and recognize that those behaviors have an impact upon everyone around them.
These skills have been proven to be most essential in the workplace, and for being a good citizen in the world. These skills are at the core of my SOAR TM Programs. Unfortunately, children are not learning these skills in formal educational settings. And if they are, they aren’t being helped with how to practice or generalize these skills.
As a child psychologist and children’s empowerment coach, I am here to guide and mentor your child to learn, understand, and live these skills in her everyday life so that she can be the best version of herself possible. I also coach you, the parents, so that you can empower your kids at home. This family coaching process creates strong, confident, and motivated individuals and families, who are prepared for life’s challenges and ready to SOAR!
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