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How do you equip a child for success in today’s world?

Being a good student and working are no longer enough. For decades our schools have taught children to be compliant. Use a #2 pencil. Score well on tests. March single file. Yet the unemployment rate for college graduates hasn’t been this high since 1970. What should be your strategy?


I’ve been concerned for some time about what future opportunities will be available for our youngest generation. If you are a parent you probably have these same concerns. One thing is apparent to me; the world we grew up in is rapidly changing. Products that were once manufactured are now either made by machines or built by cheap labor in another county.

What is a parent to do? As a parent, now more than ever, you need to take control of your child’s education.

I have four recommendations.

Encourage CreativitySeth Godin makes the case in his book Linchpin that people who can find creative solutions to problems are the ones who will find success. I agree. I was always a very good student, but when I look back now I realize that the successes I’ve experienced, have often had their basis in my creative side. My strengths were always in the math and sciences. I assumed that creativity was for those with talent in the arts. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

When Edison imagined the light bulb he was using his creativity.

When the American space program stalled over the belief, based on failed efforts in space, that man could not work in a weightless environment it was Buzz Aldrin who imagined that it must be similar to working underwater. He was put in charge at NASA and after thousands of hours of underwater experiments the techniques for working in space were developed. These techniques are still in use.

in both cases the technical skills of each man would have been worthless with out the creativity that allowed them to bring to mind things that are not present. Kids have incredible capacity for imagination. Creativity comes from acting out on that imagination. Find ways to encourage it in your kids.

If you have toddlers, many toys now have a few preprogramed options. Think Buzz Lightyear. This does nothing to develop creativity. However, let a kid use his imagination with things like tinker toys, blocks of wood, a fisher price xylophone and etch a sketch and watch their creativity soar.

Teach History — Not the boring kind of history where you memorize facts. Knowing the state capital of all 50 states is pretty worthless in the age of Google. Instead focus on the “why” of history. My son and I had a recent discussion regarding slavery in America. The so called facts of slavery propagated today in many cases have no basis in reality. We explored some of the actual reasons things happened as they did. We both learned some new things.

I recently watched a series on Netflix called America: The Story of Us . It has 12 episodes and covers American history from Jamestown to current times. I like that it showcases the people, many you have probably never heard of, who had a great impact on history because of their creativity and willingness to take risk. If you watch this, you will understand how we came to the term American exceptionalism. I highly recommend it for anyone from 5th grade through adults.

Reading — Development of creativity and an understanding of history are a foundation. Reading will give you the tools to build a great life. My success would be greatly diminished were in not for my effort to learn through reading. I can’t emphasis this enough. If your kids are spending more time watching music videos than they are reading you are not doing them any favors. I have always believed that through reading there is nothing that you cannot learn. I look forward to writing more about this in a later post.

You may have noticed that I have not included writing in my list of suggestions. There is a reason. If you read a lot you will naturally develop writing skills by osmosis. If you read a lot you will naturally learn the rhythms and patterns of good writing. Most people look at me funny when I tell them I can’t even begin to diagram a sentence. It just never clicked for me. But I naturally knew what worked properly and what didn’t. it got me though college level courses in technical report writing. I’m not implying you ignore it.

Math – Let me say that you do not need to be a rocket scientist to do well in life. But you do need to understand finances. The most important rule of finance; “The borrower is slave to the lender” Proverbs 22:7. If you don’t learn this quickly you may dig a hole so deep you will never have the chance to soar.

Secondly, if you are in college, take a course in Statistics and Probability. Your chances of being scammed later in life will go down at least ten fold. I’m still shocked at the things people fall for that they would never be tempted by if they had a basic understanding of Statistics and Probability.

I’m also a big fan of visual story problems with younger kids. Anything that helps to visualize numbers will make math easier.

So there are four ideas. What are yours? What are you doing to equip your children for success? What do wish you had done differently?

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