4 Soft Skills that Will Prepare Them
Some things in life are not as mysterious as we often make them. Yes, the world is changing quickly, but that doesn’t mean we suddenly have no idea how our kids will be able to succeed in the future. What we need to realize is that some skills will serve them for a lifetime, no matter where the world ends up going.
1. Growth Mindset
I am sure you have heard this before, but I am putting it at the top and taking my chances you will keep reading even though growth mindset is not a new epiphany. The thing is, it matters more than just about anything else you can do for your kids because if they have it they will be able to tackle any learning they need to succeed, however gnarly it may be.
When my oldest was ten he was absolutely sure he would never learn long division. He tried and tried, he didn’t exactly hate math but he could not remember all the steps and what order to do them. Long division was extremely taxing on him. I knew he could learn. I told him he would learn, it was only a matter of time, blood, sweat, and tears, okay, maybe there was no bleeding, but there were certainly tears.
2. Know How to Fail
Five years later, I will forever be grateful that not everything came easily to him when he was young. You see, he knows how to fail, he is not afraid of failure. He knows how to learn. He learned how to work hard at things he did not like doing. And now, when he is doing something he loves? He is a force to be reckoned with. Simply because he believes work matters, and that he can learn anything he puts his mind to.
He recently told me this, “The secret is; don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself.” Ah, at 15, all I can say, is yes, yes, yes. You’ve got it, and as hard as it is to watch him fall when he does fail, I don’t have to worry about him, because I know he will just get back up, with a smile on his face too boot, and throw all his energy in, until he succeeds, or decides that whatever it is he is doing isn’t worth the work.
I am grateful these lessons came naturally in his life. I am left to engineer these situations with some of his younger siblings. See, long division is not hard for all of my kids. For some of my kids, nothing is hard. Those are the ones I really have to worry about. I have to try and engineer hardness and failure into their life, which of course, as their parent, seems counter-intuitive, but you see, they have to learn this lesson.
3. Work Wins Every Time
They need to know the power of work, and that you can learn anything. When they learn everything so easily and quickly, at the drop of hat, I worry they won’t know how to get back up and keep on going when they fail.
I have known too many people who thought they were smart, when to college with big ambitions and quickly shrunk down their aspirations into mediocrity. They decided they weren’t smart enough for their original dreams. But that is B.S. we are all smart enough for our dreams. Most of us are in fact, way smarter than our biggest dreams. It is just a matter of whether we are willing to go through the blood, sweat, and tears to get there.
So yes, my 10-year-old is on the cusp of starting a full 8th-grade pre-algebra course. Because there has to be something she doesn’t get 100% on all the time or she will not learn this lesson of failure. Believe me, she has spent years begging me to let her do ‘easy’ math. By this, she means math at a level where she will get every single problem correctly and not have to push herself or think.
I don’t think so darling, I realized a long time ago I had to pick something to push her past her perfectionistic comfort level with and I chose math. Because I knew her love of math would survive the pushing. I did not make her do things that were too hard for her. But I did make her do things she thought were too hard for her.
She gave up asking me to dumb her math down a few years ago, and now is quite confident and beaming, she realizes it was never too hard. But she also realizes it is okay to sometimes, not get it. A lesson that can be hardest to teach the brightest kids. But if we don’t, they will sell themselves short as soon as things get hard. Because they will have accidentally developed a fixed mindset.
4. Developing Healthy Habits
Now, I don’t just mean physical habits like eating right. I mean the actual ability/skill to form the habits that you decide are healthy for your life right now.
I mean helping them learn how to nourish themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. To understand when their life is veering out of balance in some way, and to reign it back into balance by starting a habit.
I know, easier said than done, right? How do you teach kids to form habits? My 15-year-old happily declared to me just a few days ago that he remembered to put on his deodorant.
I did not know whether to be appalled that he was proud of himself, (because this was basically an admission of all the times he failed to remember). Or happy that he remembered that day. I went with happy. Positive reinforcement is important with habits and beating yourself up for failing rarely results in lasting transformation.
As Dory would say, “Just keep swimming.” Because that is how you build habits, you just keep going. Also, your kids are watching you. As they see us course correct and build healthy habits both for ourselves and the family, they will learn how to do this for themselves too, as they get older.
Of course, as they get older, they need a bit of freedom. To practice healthy habits, they need the freedom to fail, and even (gasp) to develop a bad habit or two. That is the only way they will learn the power of good habits and how to break bad habits. I am not suggesting you hand your kids cigarettes or anything, but sometimes we need to let go of the reigns a little more than is cozy.
As far as nurturing all those fabulous parts of our humanness, if they grow up in an environment where all the parts of them, (mental, physical, emotional) are nurtured they will know how that feels. This will help them as an adult to know when something is out of balance in their life.
Where ever the world ends up going, having a growth mindset, knowing how to fail, working hard, and habit formation will give your kids the soft skills to succeed with any hard skills they choose.