Six Critical Skills that You and Your Children Need to Survive the 21st Century

These six critical skills are sometimes referred to “soft skills”. In my opinion there is nothing soft about them. They are critical to survive in the workforce, they are difficult to learn and without them you will have a very difficult time finding and keeping successful employment. When you go to the Internet and look up “soft skills”you can find an comprehensive list of different skills by different authors. They may include: communication skills, teamwork and collaboration skills, problem solving, critical observation, conflict resolution, creativity, common sense, empathy, adaptability and the list goes on. These are all “people skills” and how you interact with others. The number one reason that people get fired, demoted or not hired at all is the lack of these skills. Technical skills may get you an interview, but these critical skills will get you the job! All of these skills are learned skills that can and should be taught by yourself, parents, teachers and mentors or other key people in your life.

Here is my list of the six most critical skills that someone needs to survive in the 21st century. They are:

(1) Communication Skills: both written and spoken communication skills are essential. Can you write a paragraph with good spelling and grammar? Can you speak, in english, and make a point about a topic? Can you write or speak in a way that the receiver of this information finds it clear, concise and easy to understand? Communicating effectively with other employees or team members is an essential skill for success in the 21st century.

(2) Listening Skills: learning to be a good listener is one of the most important critical skills to obtain. Communication is a two-way street. After you have spoken about something, listening carefully will help you understand if what you said was fully understood. Good listeners are appreciated by others. You need to listen to other peoples ideas and not cut them off with your ideas or solutions if you are going to be a good communicator. Learning to be a good listener is not easy for everyone but is critical to learn to do.

(3) Problem Solving Skills: Having good problem solving skills can make a huge difference to your career and future. Can you clearly defined the problem to be solved? Many people want to start with solutions rather than clearly defining the problem to be solved. Can you incorporate other peoples ideas and suggestions into a plan? Can you keep an open mind during the discussion?

(4) Teamwork and Adaptability skills: Can you listen to others ideas without imposing yours? Can you question other people without insulting them? Are you a good participant when planning or discussing activities? Are you willing to put in the same amount of time and effort?

(5) Willingness to Try New Things: Are you open to new ideas and considering doing things in a different way? Are you open to new and different thinking about solutions to problems? Employees of different ages can approach solutions with radically different approaches and ideas…. are you willing and able to consider their ideas?

(6) Good Manners: Good manners seem to have gotten lost with a lot of people. “Please”, “Thank You” and “Your Welcome” are seldom heard from the “me generation”. As I mentioned earlier in this blog, all of the above skills, are people skills. and your ability to communicate with others, gain there respect and trust are essential to your success. Good manners are appreciated and respected by others and demonstrate that you are a first class person. I will have more to say about manners in an upcoming blog.

“Sinkhole of Summer”…. Are Children falling through the Cracks?

We are well into summer and children are enjoying their “time off from school” as they spend more time with family and friends. Summertime can be almost 3 months in length with family vacations taking up only a few weeks of that time. So what do children do during the time that they’re not actively involved in the family vacation? Watch TV, play on the computer, play video games, text to friends? It is easy for parents to think these activities are actively engaging a child’s mind and keeping them out of trouble. Too much time on any of these activities is putting your child at risk.

Let’s look at some facts. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF):
(1) two thirds of infants and toddlers watch a screen on an average of two hours a day,
 (2) children under the age of six also watch an average of two hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos,
 (3) children 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of the TV screen and almost 2 additional hours on a computer playing video games. That adds up to a lot of time in front of a TV or computer screen. All of that time is nonverbal with little or no interaction. Add to this, that in just a few short years texting has become the mode of communication with children. The average youth does 100 texts a day, and that adds up to over 3000 per month.

Why is this important? Children look occupied, they’re not fighting, they seem to be enjoying what they are doing….. so why should I be concerned? Here’s why! For children to be successful in school, work and in life they need to be able to interact with other adults. When you verbally communicate with someone you learn to read body language as a major source of input. We pick up on tone of voice, facial expressions, body movements and other signals that tell a lot about what the person is saying. You don’t learn these through video games and texting. This is a very important and an essential part of communication that parents need to make sure that their children are not missing out on.

So what can you do? Here are a few things that can help:
      1) Create opportunities to give children a break from the television, computers and PDAs. Go to the library, museum, sporting event, pool or shopping but leave the technology at home. Hard to do but if they can’t spend their time texting then they might start talking and that’s good.
     2) Limit the amount of time children can watch television or use a computer. Two hours a day might be a reasonable time frame.

You may want to review to previous blogs I wrote on May 11, 2015 “The Electronic Babysitter… could be harming your children” and on May 20, 2015 “Creating a Healthy Dialogue with children of all ages”. Remember the challenge as a parent is to get our children socially ready to interact with other people in effective ways.

If children are taught the skills that will help them deal  effectively  with others they are on the road to success. As a parent you have a wonderful opportunity to help teach your children to be socially smart and how to relate to others. With these skills they are on the road to being successful at school, work and in life.

Helping your child to make a difference!

All of us have had the experience of going to a restaurant, hotel, supermarket, bank or somewhere else and been giving less than the best customer service. Some people, regardless of what they’re getting paid, do the minimum. Their attitude is “good enough is good enough”.

On the other hand, we’ve all experienced super customer service, at hotels, banks, auto dealerships or whatever else. We can appreciate this special attention to detail, making us feel special and doing their job very well.

So what makes the difference between great customer service and average customer service. It comes from two different areas: it comes from those companies and organizations that have a philosophy of great customer service. They train their people from top to bottom to provide the best customer service possible. I believe it also comes from parents and teachers who expected the best from children and taught them to never give less than their best effort. This starts in schools with teachers and at home with parents. Many students have the attitude of “what is the minimum expected of me to get the best grade possible”. Their only concern is getting that A or B that will help them get into the college or university of their choice.

It’s not about learning….. it is more about promotion. It is sad, but too many teachers and parents allow this behavior by accepting less than the best from students. Students will copy and paste from the Internet, to do a report, not caring about why the report is important or what they can learn from it. This same attitude can be found in the home where parents can ask children to clean up their room or finish a specific chores and accepting less than the best effort from the child. For many parents it is easier to go behind the child and pick up the room or finish the chores then to fight with them over the issue. In my opinion this is a big mistake! It sets the stage for teaching children that it is okay to give less than your best.

So here’s why parents need to take charge. It’s your child, it is their future and you can make a difference with them. Don’t accept homework that is less than their best effort. When doing weekly spelling assignments often they are asked to write a sentence using the word. Many students will write the shortest possible sentence that barely meets the requirements of using the word in an effective way. Don’t accept that! Talk with your child’s teacher and explain to them that you want to be supportive and get the best from your child’s effort. This should be a goal that every teacher will embrace and support. Together you can make a difference.

Three ideas to give your child a fighting chance at career success

The world is changing rapidly. More of our manufacturing jobs are heading overseas. We are seeing. for the first time, white-collar jobs consumed by technology and other innovative cost-saving ideas. So when your child graduates from high school or college what will they do? In 2012, 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31—the so-called Millennial generation—were living in their parents’ home, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Not a very exciting option for parents or for young people. Job hunting is tough and your kids better be ready to go up against the BEST and win.

Preparation starts early and at home.

So what can you do to give your child the best opportunity for future success in the world of work. First of all you need to know that preparation starts early and at home. Not in school, not in college but it starts right in the home with you as the teacher. You have heard this many times but it’s worth repeating: parents are the first and best teachers a child will ever have. There are many outstanding teachers who play a significant role in a child’s life….. but what you do is a parent every day can have much more impact than any teacher.

 A Simple Test

Here’s a simple test that you can give your children to see if they are moving in the right direction to be employable in the 21st century world of work. You can administer this test as early as five years old but the lessons for work preparation start much earlier. Here we go!

1) Watch how your children greet another adult. Do they look them in the eye? Do they shake hands with a firm but pleasant handshake? Can they respond appropriately to a question or statement from the greeting adult? For example: adult:“how are you today?” a good answer might be : ”fine thank you how are you?”. Can they talk with another person and engage with appropriate conversation ?

2) When talking with your child do they look at you and engage you with more than a one word answer. For example: if you asked the question”what would you like to do today?” Can they answer you in a sentence of more than 10 words? This is a skill that starts early and is essential if they are going to be effective in a job interview.

3) Attitude matters. When they are around friends and other people do they demonstrated a positive attitude about themselves and others? Skills can be taught but attitude is very difficult to change. Employers will hire someone with a good attitude and less skilled than someone who has a questionable attitude and better skills.

So what can you do?

Help your child to acquire the skill of greeting people with a pleasant and firm handshake. Looking at people when they talk to them is extremely important. Have them put down their PDAs when they are having a conversation with you or others. You would be surprise at the number of college graduates who cannot look at the interviewer when answering questions. Chances are they’re not going to get the job.
Help your child work on building a strong and positive self-esteem. Talk with them about what went well in school, on the athletic field or with friends each day. Help them learn to verbalize and have a positive expression. This may not come easy but it does come with practice. Help them understand the importance of being a team player. Job candidates under estimate how much hiring managers care about interpersonal and communication skills. They will need to communicate with others and be part of the team if they are going to be successful. Hope this helps and gives you something to think about.

I would love to hear your feedback and any ideas or suggestions you might have.

Developing your child’s self-esteem… Important things to think about.

A healthy self-esteem is the safeguard for your child against the challenges of the world. Children who have a positive self-esteem have a much easier time dealing with daily conflicts and the negative pressures that come from school, play, other children and adults.

Self-esteem starts at infancy and continues to develop in a positive or negative way throughout your child’s life. Helping your child grow up surrounded by encouragement and realistic goals is crucial to them feeling good about themselves. Impressions on self-esteem start very early in life.

Parents that are actively involved with their children help them to form an accurate and healthy perception of themselves. This is one of the reasons why preschool is so important. A good preschool teacher can be invaluable in helping children establish a positive image of themselves during play and during other activities in the classroom and on the playground. Parents should continually ask for input from the preschool teacher regarding how well the child is doing in the area of self-esteem development. Don’t be afraid to regularly ask the preschool teacher for an assessments and advice.

Self-esteem will fluctuate as kids grow older and are involved in different activities at school and in after school and sports activities. Sports activities, including soccer, T-ball, basketball and other entry level sports can have a tremendous impact on a child’s self-esteem. Make sure that your child has a positive and encouraging coach. Remember it’s your child and what happens out on the field can be a life-changing experience for a child. Don’t be afraid to get involved. Children with healthy self-esteem tend to enjoy interacting with other children and adults. They are more comfortable in social settings and enjoy group activities. It is important for parents to encourage this.

Three important things that you may want to focus on:

1) Give positive yet accurate feedback to your child. don’t tell them they are the best on the team, if they’re not, but share with them that they’re getting better and improving all the time.

2) Create a safe, loving home environment where your children can express themselves and get positive constructive feedback.

3) Encourage cooperation rather than competition as children learn to play with others and develop a positive self-esteem.

There’s nothing more important than a child growing up feeling good about themselves and able to deal with all the challenges the world presents. Devoting time and attention to a child’s development early on is essential.


Talking with young children: How Parents can Encourage Learning

During the first five years of a child’s life 90% of brain development takes place. There’s no way to go back after a child enters school and recapture what they have missed during the first five years. So what does this mean for parents and learning? Parents have a perfect opportunity to be the first and best teacher in a child’s life. They can have a profound impact that will make a difference for a lifetime. Here are a few facts!

1) Thought–provoking questions or using new words can extend children’s thinking and curiosity.

2) When adults purposefully talk more with children, children develop larger vocabularies (Hart & Risley,1999, Hoff & Naigles, 2002).

3) Children with larger vocabularies are better readers and better readers are more successful throughout school and life (Snow,Burns & Griffin 1998).

All families talk to children, but the way you talk to them or with them is what makes the difference. If you’re just talking at children to get things done, such as, eating, getting dressed, cleaning up etc. then you are missing an opportunity to get the vocabulary growth, cognitive development and emotional maturity that is necessary for future success.

Here are a few things parents can do that make a significant difference:

1) When driving in a car with children, turn off your radio and put down the cell phone….. Engage your children in conversation regarding the world around them, i.e. How many red cars can we find in the next few minutes? Can you find the number six on the license plate? Who can find the letter “S” on a license plate?
This is fun and can make a world of difference.

2) Use “Big Words” and extend a child’s vocabulary: Instead of saying: “going to the park can be fun” say… “Going to the part can be enjoyable, entertaining or pleasant. Instead of saying: “that is a scary mask your brother is wearing”…. That is a creepy, horrifying, shocking or intimidating mask your brother is wearing.
These are easy to do and make a significant difference. Remember you are the first and most important teacher in a child’s life…. Make a difference for them!

Should every child be ready for college when they graduate ? Maybe…. maybe not

This is the perplexing question that every parent faces as their child enters high school and they start thinking about what happens in the next three or four years. Should we start saving now for college, how much will it cost us and what options do we have ? These are all excellent questions and many can be answered through high school counselors and other resources.

Two areas that parents and students should investigate before graduation are community colleges and career & occupational training programs. Both of these can be exceptional ways to save money and give a student the additional college and career experience that will help prepare them for the future workforce. Community colleges can offer the first two years of college experience much cheaper than a four-year state or private institutions. Many community colleges are offering career and occupational training programs that are exceptional.

Here are some facts that are worth knowing about: 35% of the students entering college their first year dropout, only 40% of the students who stay in school graduate in four years and 60% of the students who stay in college require six or more years to graduate. This only adds to the increased cost of the education and the indebtedness that students find themselves when they finally do graduate.

There are many excellent, high paying jobs that don’t require a four-year college education. Students and parents should explore these options to see if the student has interest in the area and the demand for jobs is sufficient for employment. Here are just a few jobs that pay well and have high demand in the USA: dental hygienist, web developer, medical secretary, paralegal assistant, auto mechanic, firefighter and many more.

Even with younger children parents can start the college and career exploration process by talking about jobs. When a child goes to the dentist for teeth cleaning have the hygienist explained to them what they enjoy most about their work. Almost everywhere you go someone is doing something that could be interesting as a future occupational opportunity for your child. Help them learn to ask good questions and think about those options early on.