This may be a surprise, but I want my kids to fail and fail often at an early age. I want them to experience hardship and, most importantly, learn to develop the strategies they need to get through the ‘muck’ without me. That is futureproofing at its most basic; it is our kids learning to have difficult times, friendships, teachers, disappointments and learning that they can get through it without you fixing it for them. We support, we listen, we encourage THEIR strategies and we let them experience real life. If we futureproof our kids before they are 18-years-old we set them up for a lifetime of skills to deal with hardship, pain and all the amazing opportunities for them ahead in life.
8 tips for futureproofing our children:
1. Family values: Most businesses we know and work with have a clearly articulated set of values. How many families have their values clearly articulated and written for all to see in their homes? If our children know, discuss, live by (and break – let’s be real here) our family values then they have a strong base from which to approach life. Try this as a family. Get your daughters and sons to add their words and discuss what they mean and why they are important to them. Keep the list between 5-8 items so that they can remember them. This is a great reference for them with specific praise when they live these values out and also as a reference point for when they are letting themselves or others down.
2. Strengths: Our children get too many messages in life about what they can’t do. Futureproofing our kids means acknowledging areas of growth (aka weaknesses) AND focusing on their strengths. There are excellent free online surveys (I use http://www.viacharacter.org/ with all our students) that can be used from 8-years-old. Character strengths are the pillars they can rely on when things are tough. Take your child’s top 5-8 strengths and have them tape them to a mirror. That visual reminder every day is a powerful tool for their development.
3. Character counts: Like strengths and values, character is what makes your child(ren) uniquely them. Be specific and tell them what their character ‘is’ – who they are when they are at their best. Too often our children grow into adults never understanding what a ‘good’ person is on the inside. They need someone in their life to tell them: “You’ve got what it takes to be a great man/woman because …” Generations of men/women have not been told this and we can all see the impact of that gap in our society.
4. Failure: This is not easy for us as parents. We actually need them to be unhappy at times, struggle, deal with hardship, hurt, loss and rejection. We stand by their side and support and listen, but we have to let them try their solutions and see the positive or negative impact of that solution. I know, I know, momma bear and poppa bear want to come roaring out of the cave and strike down in a violent way anyone who dares to ignore, hurt or demoralise our child. It is our parental instinct. In doing so we do not allow our kids to learn for their future, we just fix (not really) the issue or the problem.
5. Resiliency 101: Interestingly, did any of us ever hear the word resiliency growing up? I ask that question of groups often and not once does anyone over 20-years-old ever remember the word being used when we were kids. Why now? Older parents, less children, more pressure, an uncertain future. Yes, to all, but there is more. Our hyper vigilance in parenting is actually the main cause of this. Our children need space to roam, play, imagine and be themselves without constant parental interference, rules and oversight. They need a bit of risk, of adventure and of boredom to create something new. Why are our kids not resilient? Is it because of us?
6. Futureproofing our children is also about saying no: They need to hear ‘no’ often. Delayed gratification (even when they are complaining for hours) is a key to giving our kids the tools to understand that life is not a constant stream of yes and now.
7. Nature: Futureproofing our children means unplugging from the matrix. Games are designed to suck them in for hours and hours. They are fun, but we as parents need to be the ones who teach them balance. Nature provides our greatest tools for the healthy development of our children. Weekends of unplugging, school holidays unplugged, week days unplugged. Whatever works for your family will benefit your family for the present and the future.
8. Love yourself: This is the most important one for your family. They need to see that we love ourselves. Despite our faults, wrinkles, failures, etc. we love who we are. We take time for us. We value our work, play, time and family. We need our kids to truly see that we can be authentic, vulnerable, loving and compassionate despite all our mistakes and our past. That will futureproof them to truly love themselves (not like an egocentric 15-year-old) when they are an adult. This can be the most challenging one for us as parents, but it is the most important. Love thyself!
Futureproofing our children CANNOT work in isolation. We need to reclaim parenting in the community and not alone behind closed doors. Talk to one another, share the stories, joys and frustrations of our kid(s). There is no perfect family, perfect parent or perfect child – they simply do not exist. In order to truly futureproof our children we need to do this together. Let today be the start of a conversation so that your sons and daughters raise a generation who do not need futureproofing because they deeply understand values, character, resiliency and themselves.
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