We now thrive in a culture of innovation. For our children, that means more than half of the jobs they will pursue do not even exist yet. As parents, it’s our job to help them navigate this changing world, and provide them with the essential skills and practice they need so they can explore and discover careers as they revolutionize over time.
Serendipity plays a big role in this. Where your child thinks they may be 10 years from now could look very different than where they land. It’s the experiences they gain along the way that will prepare them for careers that will evolve.
Because advances and discoveries are being produced so rapidly, it’s critical we teach our children that their secret to success is no longer about conformity—it’s about preparing them to be successful in an unknown future.
Here’s what you can do right now to help prepare your child.
Don’t praise intelligence. Praise work ethic.
Research has proven that praising children for their intelligence will often make them less likely to challenge themselves. As a parent, we should focus on praising their work ethic–attacking a challenging problem and sticking with it shows their persistence, and next time they encounter an issue, they will approach it with more confidence.
Careers are more innovation-focused and that means we need to prepare our children for the rapid pace at which our world changes. We should be asking them, how fast can you take advantage of the changes that will keep you relevant?
Recognize, celebrate, and reinforce the “four C’s.”
We should make it a priority to call attention to these foundational skills: critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. These four C’s are often referred to as soft skills. In a globally collective culture where innovation is the norm, these are essential skills. These process skills are just as important, if not more important, than the end product.
Recognizing and celebrating the 4 C’s means parents need to take time to have conversations about the steps their child took toward a decision. For example, if you watch teams work together, effective teams work the 4 C’s successfully, and that leads to a good end product. The end product often falls apart or falls short of the mark with teams who cannot effectively work together.
Provide and allow latitude for choice and voice from young ages.
As a culture, it’s hugely important that we gravitate toward things that interest us. We are wired to ask questions and poke our world to see how it responds. The old saying, “Because I said so,” doesn’t go as far anymore with our youth. So if all we’re asking of our children is compliance, we are not building the mindset that allows for independent reasoning.
For example, take your child to a grocery store and allow them to pick three different cereals to put in the cart. Explain that you are going to have your child put two of the boxes of cereal back, keeping only one. Then ask them to explain why they are not picking the other two. Your child is practicing choice and voice skills when they are being asked to reflect and evaluate their purchase through reasoning.
Model and practice metacognitive reflection when exercising choice and voice.
Metacognition–thinking about your thinking–will help your child to practice their voice and choice. Work with your child to reflect after finding a solution by asking, “’Did I collaborate well? What stopped my creativity?” It may not occur to you to ask your child how they may have used their supplies or resources differently, but it’s an important question for them to think about. Children do not do this automatically so, as parents, we too should model thinking and reasoning out loud in front of our children so they can start to cultivate those skills and build a mindset that allows them to improve their process for the next time.
Support and celebrate failure that leads to progress.
Failing forward gets us somewhere. It’s not easy, but if your child fails and learned something from it, then the failure actually was a success. It’s learning from the experiences that really allows your child to take two steps forward. Celebrating failures that move your child forward will help them tackle the next problem or job that comes along. You’re also giving them the green light to push into areas that we would not have in the past for fear of them looking unintelligent. However, preparing our children for jobs that don’t yet exist means this is a skill that will be deeply valued as the world of work continues to change.
Our 21st century learners are our newest innovators. To innovate we have to be intentional by providing opportunities and making these essential skills part of our children’s daily routines. When our children become comfortable with productive failure and motivated to tackle self-identified challenges, they become top-notch problem-solvers and open-minded thinkers. With these abilities and skillsets along with an innovative mindset, our children will be able to tackle any job that comes their way in the future.