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9 Lessons To Teach Kids Now — That Help Them Make Good Decisions Later

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Mom and daughter smiling

Imagine your child is applying to colleges. Yes, even if they are small children right now, you can imagine this. 

What do you want for them at that time? How will you know if they're making the right decision?

Or, perhaps, you can imagine your child got all the way through grad school they still don't have a job. Would you be concerned?

What if you knew that you didn't have to interfere, even when you wonder if they're ready to fly solo? 

Can you truly prepare them for the time when you're no longer right next to them, helping them make each decision?

Yes, you can give your kids the life skills they need to make good life and career choices no matter what — if, that is, you've realized their lives aren't going to be like yours.

Knowing that is the first, big step toward empowering your kids to make good decisions when they grow up.

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How do you empower kids to make good decisions when they're older?

Forward-thinking parents know it's all about teaching them how to make good decisions neither you nor your kids even know they'll have to make one day. 

And that's less about GPA and more about critical thinking and emotional intelligence.

I advise against helicopter or snowplow parenting. Yet, this pandemic and post-pandemic era are stressful if you have a young adult in the house.

I had two of my own. One was bound to teach in China. One was bound for an internship in Rome. Both jobs fell through in 2020.

Wondering if I panicked? A little.

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They had fine GPAs from good schools, but they weren't magna cum laude. They looked good on paper but hated interviews. They were, however, leaders in what they loved to do.

My son enjoys helping kids who are different. My daughter is artistic. Both have athletic natures. 

Wondering if they got other jobs? Yes, because they had certain life skills other job seekers didn't.

Here are 9 lessons to teach your kids now —so they can make good decisions when they're older 

1. How to find focus.

Today's distractions are everywhere. Social media can be persuasive and vicious. Encourage your kids to focus on what they would like to do next in life, not on what others tell them to do.

As they take steps toward these present goals, they will build toward knowing what they want when they grow up. They'll also have a better sense of who they are and what they want to offer the world.  

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2. How to find perspective.

Many kids I have spoken with see the world through a narrow lens — their own. Teach your kids to see another person's point of view, come up with multiple solutions to a problem, and walk in another person's shoes.

They can do all of this with travel, writing and reading multicultural stories, and sitting down to a meal with people who look different, think differently, or behave differently than they do. 

3. Creative communication.

I write about communications and creativity at work often because I think it's the most important business skill. Help your child through any stress of speaking their mind and truth by sitting and listening to them without judgment.

Have them do the same for their peers. Have them assist you to answer phone calls or emails to get them beyond texting. Teach them how to resolve conflict with kind, open-minded words and not heated arguments (or worse).

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4. Critical-thinking skills.

Let them make their own decisions and their own mistakes. This will help them figure out that the first solution might not be the best solution for them.

Step in only when you think they are in danger physically or mentally, not when they take a wrong turn. 

5. Wisdom around risk-taking.

Remember when you were a young adult. We rebelled when our parents told us that the risks we took weren't worth it. Most young adults still do, and some are more strong-willed than others. That determination will serve them well in the future.

I'm not talking about life-threatening decisions here. I'm talking about the friends they hang out with, the solo trips they want to take, or the courses that ignite them. 

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6. Respect for the struggle.

Risk-taking can lead to struggle sometimes. But isn't that a lesson about life? As long as our kids practice compassion and empathy for others and towards themselves, they'll get through it all.

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They'll learn. 

7.  Independence. 

Don't do the work for them. Let them do it, and you will watch as they become an amazing asset to their communities, a treasured friend, and an amazing, happy person.

And isn't that what we want for all of our kids? 

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8. Reliability.

The lack of this quality is a huge reason so many people lose their jobs.

They can have gifts that set the world on fire, but if they don't show up at work and don't follow through, they will struggle no matter what their skill sets are. 

9. Resilience.

All of these qualities equal a resilient, balanced person who is capable of making their own decisions, recovering from their failures, and capable of seeing and fulfilling their potential. 

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EQ or IQ?

How you can know it will all be okay? Emotional intelligence wins over IQ any day. 

You can't see what your young adult child will be doing 25 years from now because you cannot see their future. You cannot see any future. I know this from experience. 

When I was 16, the very first female anchor arrived at our local television station. Her name was Ann Compton and she went on to be a White House correspondent. I was fascinated with her because I didn't know that women could anchor the news.

Imagine being the only female news anchor today!

I told my dad that's what I wanted to be when I graduated. He sneered, "That's not going to give you a good salary."

I listened to him and became a print journalist instead, by default.

I wish I'd listened to my heart and not to my father's. He couldn't see my future. I had a glimmer of it because I was immersed in broadcast news, just like today's kids are immersed in TikTok.

By the time CNN came to be, I would have been in a much better place to step into national broadcast journalism. But it turned out OK. I still got to use that skill set. I host a podcast now because, just like our kids will, I've had several careers in a lifetime.

I had transferrable skills. And even though my dad wasn't thinking about the future, my parents had given me life skills to succeed in anything I aspired to. 

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My son's teaching position fell through in China due to the pandemic. However, he's teaching online and will be positioned as a great choice for a full-time overseas teaching position. He thought about the future and could see the big picture. 

My experience with my dad made me hold my tongue when my daughter dropped out of art school to pursue advertising instead of art. She's now interning at a renowned national theatre as an advertising graphic artist and market research analyst.

I let her make her own decisions, her own mistakes, gave her life skills and not just academic skills, and stood back and watched after she turned 17.

This internship is only the first step of many in her career. She'll have to navigate work with love and relationships and family. She'll have to decide where to live, when it's time to ask for a promotion, or when it's best to leave.

That's what she's equipped to do. 

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The best way to navigate the future without a crystal ball

You can't see the future. But you can equip your kids to deal with it. You can help your kids learn how to make decisions they don't even know they'll have to make right now. 

Give your kids life skills. Empower them and let them make their own decisions. Help them learn how to make their decisions, not what decisions to make, because you're grooming them to make decisions they (and definitely not you) will know about only decades from now.

If you're forward-thinking now, your kids' future will be bright — and so will the world they live in. 

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Kathryn Brown Ramsperger is an Intuitive Life Coach and an author. She's written two novels about healing differences in bicultural relationships and is at work on a memoir. You can find her on Twitter and on her website.

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