• 6 Essential Life Skills Children Need to Learn to Be Successful

    According to two developmental psychologists, we first have to redefine the meaning of school success.
    by Rachel Perez .
  • 6 Essential Life Skills Children Need to Learn to Be Successful
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  • All parents want the best for their kids. That's essentially what we are tasked to do: to equip kids with the skills, values, and knowledge in order to navigate the grown-up world easily and successfully. It's also why choosing schools is such a nerve-racking experience for parents -- we want to make sure it's a decision that will help our kids get a good shot in a successful future.  

    The first step parents should do, according to two developmental psychologists, is to reconsider the meaning of school success. In their book, Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children, authors Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Golinkoff emphasize the need for our kids to develop a broader set of skills than just getting high scores in reading, writing, and math is just scratching the surface. Success in education should be about developing people who are creators and collaborators. How?

    In interviews with NPR and University of Delaware, Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff say today's report card should contain the following 6 C's: 

    Collaboration
    "Collaboration is everything from getting along with others to controlling your impulses so you can get along and not kick someone else off the swing. It's building a community and experiencing diversity and culture," Hirsh-Pasek, who is also a professor at Temple University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, tells NPR.

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    Communication
    This points to the ability to develop strong speaking, reading, writing, language, and equally important listening skills. To be a good collaborator, you have to be able to speak and present your ideas and listen to feedback. "These are the kinds of communications we all need to be able to use in our daily lives. Collaboration and communication are crucially important in our interpersonal relationships as well," stresses Golinkoff in an interview with the University of Delaware, where she also teaches. 

    Content
    Content is about competencies in subject areas and learning to learn. Golinkoff explains, "We have to teach children in a way that they can use the knowledge, that they can take it to new problems in the world. The problem [with most education systems] is that we have made that the most important thing we teach kids." Learning about subjects should be for the purpose of using it in everyday life and more importantly using that knowledge to improve life or add to the pool of knowledge itself. 

    Critical thinking
    "If you're going to have a kid who engages in critical thinking, you're not going to shut them down when they ask a question. You're not going to settle for 'because.' You're going to encourage them to ask more. And you want them to understand how other people think," says Golinkoff. Encourage kids to gather information intelligently, ask someone else's point of view, and weigh evidence. Apart from answering your kid's questions, ask him questions, too, to encourage critical thinking. 

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    Creative innovation
    This refers to the ability of the child to use information in new ways and to solve problems. "Actively participating in the learning process as opposed to just being spoon-fed information helps a child understand why he’s learning these things and also fuels his imagination." Golinkoff explains. "Stories that are fantastical engage children more and yield more learning than stories that are realistic. And, nurturing imagination feeds into creativity.”

    Confidence
    Confidence is key, says Golinkoff. This skill set also includes the ability to learn from failure and to persist in solving a problem. "You have to have the confidence to take safe risks," stresses Hirsh-Pasek. "There isn't an entrepreneur or a scientific pioneer who hasn't had failures. And if we don't rear children who are comfortable taking risks, we won't have successes," adds Golinkoff. With this part, the parent-and-child relationships plays an important part as well as the other set skills. 

    Hirsh-Pasek recommends that parents and kids evaluate themselves to understand what skills they have. Ask: How well can my child work with others? How well does he communicate? Do she think critically? How willing is he to try new stuff or make mistakes?

    If you find that your child is lacking in a certain skill, the only way to learn or to hone that skill is to practice it. Hirsh-Pasek suggests exposing him to new experiences that will help him learn. Be creative, and above all, don’t be afraid to mess up. Learning happens when people make mistakes.

    For more information about the book, visit its website. 

    Sources: NPR and University of Delaware 

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