How to educate your children for life
The school system of today is still largely based on the premise that we have to educate people to become blue-collar workers. This was needed during the industrial revolution and therefore school became mandatory. Now, society has changed. We no longer need that many workers.
Estimates are that a third of all jobs will be replaced by automated systems.
The days of having one career throughout your whole life are also over. Now you’re more likely to have 20 different careers. As the labour market is changing, the education system has to change along with it. But that takes time, it’s a very slowly evolving transformation. For this reason, the education that takes place outside of the classroom has become increasingly important. We simply cannot rely on school to do it all. If we do, our kids will be poorly equipped for the future.
There are a lot of things that we need to teach our children that school doesn’t. The list could be made long. Very long. Here are some of the things that I try to teach my kids.
There’s no such thing as a sure thing
Remember that all the theories that we have formulated are just that, theories. How the universe works, how our body works etc. These are all theories that change over time. They change because we discover more and more things. Unfortunately, theories can become absolute truths that remain despite new evidence poking holes in them like a Swiss cheese.
Observational studies are notoriously difficult to interpret. What is cause and effect? Don’t believe whatever is on today’s news. In fact, don’t even read the news.
Teach your child critical thinking and to be open to new ideas.
Teach them to not be dogmatic in their beliefs as that will only lead to stagnation. There is always a way forward, a new angle to pursue.
Help them to question the ”this is how we always done it” mentality. Maybe there’s another way?
But all of these uncertainties, will it not lead to them feeling insecure? No, not if we embrace all of these uncertainties and see them as opportunities. Instead of presenting a picture of how little we know, present the scenario of how much there is to discover. How much we still have left to learn.
There is always something that is a sure thing, a parent’s love for their child. If they feel love and support from you they can rest in that assurance and then they can handle all the other uncertainties. Make sure they know your love is for certain. Don’t make them doubt that.
Accepting vs acting
Changes in life can come about unexpectedly and with a force and speed that will knock you off your feet. Help your children establish good habits to cope with the ups and downs of life.
Teach them to accept situations that they don’t have any influence over.
Accept and move on. Getting caught up on things that you really cannot change is useless and will only cause frustration on your part. You’ll come out on the losing end.
Teach them to act with force when it’s something that they want to pursue.
Success doesn’t come without effort. The overnight successes that we hear about are usually the result of working several years behind the scenes before getting noticed. There needs to be some hustling for things to get done.
Help them to form a system in which they can get things done. A system that visualizes the things that are to be done and gives them a sense of pride over what they have accomplished. I use personal kanban both for myself and for my kids and it works really well. They put up sticky notes for school things as well as other projects that they want to pursue.
A huge benefit of personal kanban is that me nagging on them to do this and that has decreased tremendously. This system also helps them to divide a bigger project into smaller manageable parts. Something that will serve them well in the future when the projects will be more complex than simply doing math home work.
Let them be project managers
Let them start projects of their own. Encourage them to pursue ideas that they come up with. Don’t complicate things. The other weekend my 8-year old son wanted to start building a tree house. No, we don’t have time to build a tree house now, was my initial thought. But before saying anything, I thought for a few seconds longer, why not say yes? So instead of saying no, I said: ”Yes, you can build a tree house.”
He immediately went for a scouting round in the garden, checking for suitable trees, his younger sister tagging along. They spent the next hour working on their tree house. I don’t know what will come of it, but they were enthusiastic and working together in a good way. If I had said no, I would have had two cranky hungry kids that whole hour before dinner was on the table.
We adults tend to instinctively say no whenever our kids come up with ideas that they want to pursue. We look at it from a grown up perspective, where building a tree house becomes a huge project that requires careful planning. That’s not a project that you can start just like that. Therefore, we say no. Try to say yes instead. Think a bit further the next time they ask something.
What’s the worst thing that can happen?
Usually it’s not as bad as we adults sometimes tend to think. Let them try things for themselves, we don’t need to be involved all the time.
School can be quite rigid and leave little room for children’s creativity. Therefore it becomes even more important to let them be creative on their spare time. Listen to them, listen to their ideas. Don’t dismiss them simply because you’re looking at things from an adult’s point of view. Try to see things from their perspective as well.
Who did you help today?
Teach your children to be helpful towards others. Here we have to lead by example. Help others without expecting anything in return.
Ask your children who they helped today.
This is key to teaching them empathy. Ask yourself the same thing.
Help them understand different situations that arise where they might feel that other kids treated them badly or behaved in a strange way. Or when they behaved badly and treated other kids in a way that’s not OK. Talk to them about what really happens in school. The only way for us to know what happens during a a major part of their day is to communicate with them. Reason with them about different situations that occurred. How did they feel? What were they thinking? What could they have done differently?
See your own actions from another perspective
A lot of the time conflicts arise from misunderstandings that could have been avoided if we just raise our level of awareness. We need to be aware of how we say things.
Your body language and tone of voice sets the stage for the message you’re delivering.
What sounds like a constructive feedback in your mind can be interpreted as hostile criticism by your colleague. I work with this everyday myself. Everyday I strive to express myself better.
On the other hand, don’t take things that other people say to you literally. Maybe you interpreted it in a whole different way than the sender intended? Try to keep an open mind and dialogue. If you’re unsure, ask them what they meant. Don’t just walk away sulking, telling someone else how you’ve been wrongly accused. Sort things out while you can, before they grow into a mountain of misunderstandings that will forever separate you from the other person.
This is very important and something that we usually do too little of.
Listening is key to understanding others.
Really listening. Not thinking about the next smart thing to say.
Try it for a day. Don’t start up the conversations. Don’t overtake them by starting talking about something that you did last night. Simply sit and listen to what someone else is saying. Ask them questions. Be genuinely interested and engaged.
It’s OK to not want to play with everyone
Sometimes I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the concept that everyone should be included. That everyone should get to play. Exclude no one. Why do we have this notion when it comes to our children, but not when it comes to ourselves?
I try to surround myself with people that love and support me. If I were to surround myself with people that put me down and ruin things for me, I would soon start to doubt myself constantly and my self esteem would plummet all the way down to the floor.
When it comes to kids, we adults sometimes have this mantra that everyone should be included.
That all kids should get to play if they want to. I believe in giving people second chances, but eventually I will have had it and simply cut that person out of my life, at least as much as I can.
At school, our kids have to learn how to get along with all kinds of kids. Just as we at our work place have to get along with a whole bunch of people that come from different backgrounds. Some of them we get along with fine, some not so fine. It’s natural that we tend to interact more with the people that we get along with.
I don’t think it’s fair on the kids that are playing along nicely to all of a sudden use your adult authority to demand that some other kid should get to play that every time she/he has been included simply ruined things for the other kids.
OK, it’s not that child’s fault, probably comes from a non supportive home etc. But it’s not the other children’s job to straighten out that kid and constantly have their sandbox creations destroyed. Adult supervision is essential in these situations. Unfortunately, school has too few adults around. And not all of them are engaged in their work.
Just in the same way that we adults might have a complicated colleague that we have to relate to, our kids have complicated school mates that they have to relate to. It’s not fair to ask them to always include that child in their games, when we ourselves try to avoid that complicated colleague as much as possible.
Accept no for an answer
This is so important. Accepting a no is essential. I don’t mean accepting a ”No, that can’t be done!” That’s a no that probably should be overlooked. But accepting a ”No, I don’t want to do that” or a ”No, stop doing that” is very important.
Resisting peer pressure and going with your own notion of right and wrong can be extremely difficult, but we have to do it, otherwise we won’t be human.
We as parents must accept when our children say no. We must let them say no. Don’t ask when it’s non-negotiable. Only ask when they can have a say. Allow them to be able to choose whenever they can. Then it becomes easier for you to tell them what to do on the non-negotiable things.
Let them exercise their will to decide whenever possible. Don’t make too many choses for them. If you do, the risk is that they will have difficulty making decisions in their adult life and that can become quite troublesome.
In today’s school system, all kids are taught the same things regardless of their own interests. This has to change, but that takes time. Meanwhile, you need to help your child become who she/he was meant to be. Help them to embrace all the special traits that make them unique. Give them the courage to take their own path in life.
And then, the hardest thing of all, let them go.