6 Important Things We Need To Teach Kids for Success

How well are we preparing our kids to be successful?

Are we teaching them the abilities necessary to enable them to solve the unique challenges of today’s complicated world, or are we merely promulgating the facts, figures and methods of learning that have been practiced for hundreds of years?

I believe our kids need more than what they get from school; they need an extra shove toward these 6 skills and competencies that are more critical for success today than ever before.

#1. Look beyond the classroom

Kids are super focused on learning what their teachers have to offer; mastering the curriculum is their prime objective. But, while this is essential, it shouldn’t be all consuming.

Like sports and other recreational activities, there needs to be room for kids to engage more with the world around them; to explore the problems, opportunities and challenges that are integral to the context within which they live.
And to think about how what they are learning could apply to making things better.

At a very young age, kids need to be challenged to apply what they’ve learned. They need to understand that success is more than learning what’s in textbooks; it’s more about how knowledge is used to achieve something useful and amazing.

#2. Question what you see

It’s important to cultivate curiosity in young people; to encourage them to not automatically accept what they are told — even from teachers.

They need to ‘ask to understand’ and to be able to see the broader implications of the information being presented to them.

Successful people don’t blindly accept what is given to them. They look, listen, probe, inspect and examine what they see and then decide whether to accept or not.

‘Ya, but…’ should be encouraged in kids because it represents a thinking process that is stretching information to another dimension. It shows they are wanting to understand more than what they’ve heard; that the facts presented to them don’t go far enough to satisfy their curiosity.

#3. Think outside the lines

Our children need to be encouraged to be uncomfortable with compliance; to view rules not as limitations on what they can achieve, but as guidelines to enable them to seek rich solutions to difficult problems.

Schools make this difficult because they insist students conform to the rule-set being taught, with success measured by how well someone follows them. An ‘A’ student is better at following the rules, for example than an ‘C’ student.

Successful people constantly look for opportunities to break away from the way the crowd sees things because they realize that being different is the source of high performance.

#4. Help your friends

A successful career is not a solo effort; it is built on a platform of support from many people. Unless someone has the respect and trust of fellow professionals and peers, they are likely to travel a bumpy road as they try to advance in any organization.

At an early age kids need to be taught to be team players and be encouraged to help their friends. This enables them to learn the skills required to build support and respect the unique capabilities of other people.

#5. Keep learning

The school curriculum should be viewed as entry level learning; the lowest level of knowledge that should be mastered in any given grade.

Kids should be encouraged to learn more than what they are being asked at an early age in order to develop the continuous learning competency.

Long term career success requires an ability to adapt to the changing circumstances around us, and the ability to be constantly in the learning mode is the critical ingredient to allow this to happen.

#6. Be different

It’s essential.

Schools and parents are uncomfortable with kids who are not like their friends and others in their peer group.

When Roy stands out and attracts attention, teachers often notice through a negative lens — ‘that’s not what I taught you’ — and parents criticize because of their discomfort — ‘why can’t you do what you’re told like your classmates?’

This reticence to allow our kids to stand apart and separate themselves from the herd has long term consequences.

All the successful people I know are not herd members; they don’t spend their life trying to be like everyone else — they don’t believe that copying what others do is relevant and useful to adding value in the world.

Let’s give our kids an early start on what I consider to be the most critical element of success: the capability to exploit differences rather than the mentality of replicating what the crowd thinks.

How about a class topic once a month on ‘What one thing could I do that is different from what we have been taught?’ Have fun with the topic. Teach kids that it’s ok to step out and be special.

Reading — writing — arithmetic competency is the baseline for developing our kids, without which they will likely never reach their full potential.

Helping others — continuous learning — being different — questioning — thinking outside the lines, on the other hand, represents the capabilities they need to standout from others and be successful.

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