1. Life Lessons – Not taught in school:
Teachers are great for showing how to solve a quadratic equation and preparing kids for tests but how are they for teaching life skills and shaping a person’s character? It’s a mystery why schools think that advanced algebra is more important than learning about money: how to budget, calculate interest, earn, save, and invest and what mortgages and payroll deductions are about. That is up to you Dad, – unless you want your critters living on your couch in their 30’s. Morals and integrity will eventually define your kid’s character. How are they going to learn to be capable, joyful stand-up people unless they get some direction from home? (Clue: watching TV and poking around the internet isn’t going to do it either.)
2. Life long learning:
Most of us older folks were lucky; after we finished school and got a job, all we had to do was show up. Tomorrow’s world will be much different. According to Thomas Friedman (a big-shot author and columnist with the New York Times) new jobs will require “strong fundamentals in creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration; grit, self-motivation, and lifelong learning habits.” Dad, you might be the best person to instill a sense of wonder and achievement that can accompany perpetual learning. That trite little expression – “you learn something every day” will soon be a requirement in order to stay employed.
3. Skills for independence:
My wife and I made sure our kids could run a household by the time they were 21. Many young people are great with their little gadgets but don’t know much about their car, their house, and many aspects of daily living. Conversations with our young adults become something like “yes, you have to have insurance,” “you need to call the utility company and get that set up,” “there should be a shut-off under the sink”, and “NSF means insufficient funds – don’t you balance your checkbook?”
4. Preparation for jobs:
My story is embarrassing but probably not unique. I vividly recall my graduation day from college. While I was in my gown and adjusting my cap, I finally took a moment to reflect. Suddenly, a thought struck me as if an epiphany – “Now what?!” I had spent the last four years so totally focused on finishing school and getting a degree that I hadn’t even thought about getting a job or where I wanted to live. Not only do we need the academic skills to perform at a job but we need our organizational and interpersonal skills significantly developed. I don’t remember anyone teaching me those. I wish my Dad told me something of what to expect in the real world. Kids could also use a little help figuring out what the heck they want to do when they grow up.
5. Good citizens:
We’re now more connected to the rest of the world than any time in history. That’s both exciting and scary. Whether indivually or as a society, we now can have huge impacts on our environment, our government, and the economy. Your kids will need to tune in to complex issues, vote smart, develop compassion and become leaders. They’ll need a coach, a guide and an interpreter – and no, it’s not going to be their PE teacher.
6. Life in the “Real World”:
Showing your kids what’s beyond the walls of their school will help them see the bigger picture. There is so much stress during the school years with how kids are perceived, what is cool, who talks to whom etc, that it often creates an environment of anxiety, hopelessness, and a disconnection between what they’re learning and what is in the real world. Cliques, popularity, being cool, bullying, and such don’t have much sway outside of school. We need to convince our kids that the adult world is a challenging yet comfortable place in which they will be needed.
7. What’s the So-What?:
(My executive uncle would use that as a motto with his underlings who approached him with ideas. He wanted to make sure they understood the usefullness and ramifications of any new item or procedure before it would be fully considered.) Our work life, school life and home life are very similar; we are so inundated with information and requests that we need to figure out the so-what or we’ll be wasting our time and/or money. Teachers teach it because it’s part of the curriculum, students study it because it will be on the test. Dads don’t waste their time. If they talk about stuff, it will be real and it will be important.
8. Unsolved Issues:
Parenting experts say that kids need structure. No doubt this is true of the younger kids. But teenagers need to be challenged. Imagine you’re having a dinner conversation about the issues of an upcoming election or a school debate topic for which there is no clear right answer. Telling your kids that you don’t know the answers and that you look forward their future involvement in solving thorny issues is the ultimate form of respect. And there is no greater indication of a great kid than parents who respect him.
Isn’t it sad to see a person of authority or an older person lacking this particular feature. We don’t have to be Ben Franklin in order to learn and incorporate wisdom into our lives. Kids can learn at an early age how to be excited about life, how to be a master of joy, how to appreciate everything around us and bring out the best in ourselves and other people. Who better to learn these lessons than from Dad?
Dad, as a one time hero to your kids, the person they most wanted to spend time with, the person who cares about them the most, you have solid credentials! So talk to them. They’ll listen (even if they roll their eyes when they’re older)