The Best And Worst Things To Tell Your Kid When Discussing Careers…

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When I was a kid, my parents told me that I “could be anything that I wanted to be when I grew up, as long as I put my mind to it,” and they meant it. They fully believed that, if I tried my best, I could accomplish anything. As I’ve grown up, I’ve discovered that most of my friends were given the same advice. Here’s the thing… there are some serious problems with that advice. It’s time to roll out “you can be anything you want to be, as long as you put your mind to it, version 2.0.”

First, the deficiencies in the original advice:

  1. It isn’t exactly true. If you are Stephen Hawking, it probably doesn’t matter how much effort you put into practicing, you’re not going to become the world’s best opera singer. People have limitations. This doesn’t mean that you should discourage your kids from working towards something, just because you can’t see their talent. All it means is that you need to mentally prepare them for success and failure – they will surely meet both in their lives.
  2. It doesn’t actually help them accomplish anything. It just places the blame on them if they don’t accomplish their goals – because failure can only mean that they didn’t put their mind to it, or try hard enough. It encourages doubling-down, instead of teaching them how to know when to cut their losses, and at the same time, manages to provide absolutely zero guidance in the child’s quest to accomplish their goals.
  3. It encourages the child to fixate on the things that presently interest them, while turning a deliberately blind eye on everything else, resulting in many missed opportunities.
  4. You probably still don’t know what you want to be, because none of the careers that you have imagined are likely to be anything like you imagine them to be. So, this is a condition even more exacerbated by the inexperienced nature of youth. Your kid (probably) doesn’t have a blessed clue what they actually want to be when they grow up, unless you have put a great deal of time into helping them understand the realities (good and bad) of many different career options.

How do we improve upon this advice?

  1. We take an active role in helping our kid(s) figure out what they enjoy, where their talents and skills are, and the ways in which they can employ all three, in their pursuit of a career.
  2. Try to identify the paths that lead to the career that might interest them, and guide them accordingly.
  3. Don’t get frustrated with them when they change their mind a thousand times – because everything that we learn along the way is a benefit to us.
  4. Help them understand that nothing is perfect – and that includes their dream job. We need to help kids see the reality of a number of different careers and help them understand what each will require. It isn’t that we should be telling them how awful what they want to do is, but rather, giving them an objective list of pros and cons and helping them to decide what they really want out of life.
  5. In terms of that last one… you cannot pick a career and pretend that it exists in a vacuum, and that it won’t deeply affect the rest of your life. Some people live to work, and some work to live. If you haven’t helped your child figure out what their priorities are in life, then there is very little chance that your efforts at helping them pick a career are of significant value. You cannot have a one hundred hour a week job, carry a mortgage on a mansion, drive a Mercedes, spend time with your spouse, have a meaningful relationship with your kids, and maintain close friendships. The idea of “having it all,” is a myth. Steve Jobs spent his final days developing Apple’s product line for the years following his death. He did not choose to spend those days with his wife or child. No part of me finds that relatable. So, if I try to shove little Stevie Jobs in the direction that makes sense to me, he isn’t going to end up being where he wants to be –  and if we don’t give our kids any guidance at all, then we are on the wrong end of the old adage: “failing to plan, is planning to fail,” on behalf of some of the most important people in our lives.

Bonus Tip: When I was in middle school and high school, everyone that you ever met was telling you that if you wanted to be sure to land a job out of college (because, duh… you’re going to college, dumbhead), you should become a teacher. You know what the most common course of study I heard friends say they were pursuing? You guessed it: teacher! You know who struggled for years to get jobs? You guessed it again! All of those new prospective teachers. So, when you hear everyone tell you that you should have your middle/high schooler become a [insert career here], because there’s not enough people to fill those jobs, thank them for their advice, spin your kid 180 degrees away from that option, and give them a good shove forward… unless, of course, the flavor of the decade also happens to be their passion. There have been plenty of artists that were willing to starve – and some teachers, and my guess is, there will be some tradespeople in the coming years that fit that description. Just make sure that it is their passion driving them towards the flavor of the day and not the echoing of society’s conventional wisdom – because that is hardly ever right.

Being A Parent Means Being A Coach… So, What Kind Of Coach Are You?

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My 11-year old was taking a math test today and he had a weepy, frustrated, angry meltdown, when he was told that, despite getting all 20 questions correct, he needed to go back and show his work for each problem. Anybody else been there? Now, as the parent, I have a few options.

  1. Yell. Yelling is always great, isn’t it? I know that, personally, I prefer to be yelled at, as opposed to being spoken to calmly. Especially, when I’m already anxious, stressed or upset said no one ever.
  2. Threaten. This is an option. Sometimes, it is the required option. However, once you get threaten, there is no more discussing. No room for a teachable moment. Compliance by coercion teaches obedience – but, the message of this lesson will extend far beyond schoolwork. So, you might want to ask yourself if the adult that you hope to help mold is one that responds to situations by simply doing what he is told for fear of the consequences of thinking or feeling differently about the situation?
  3. Coach. Put yourself in their shoes. See the world through their eyes. Try to remember a time where you felt the way that they are feeling. Ignore your own frustration. In this case, it was pretty easy for me… You know the feeling: I’m almost done, I’m almost done, I’m… I’m being told that the program crashed, or that my application was lost or that I misunderstood and need to start over. That’s pretty relatable. As an adult, I still want to cry in those situations. Now that I’m not focused on being personally annoyed at having to refocus my attention on my kid and away from the other projects that I was working on, and now that I’m thinking of my role in guiding him, and not quite so focused on myself, I can talk him through it. I Don’t mean do it for him, but, I can give him the tools that he needs to get through, and learn from, the experience.

 

All three of the above options are available to all coaches and every coach has a different idea about the best way to approach whomever they are coaching. I would argue, that, where the immediate safety of your child is not at issue, the ideal order of approaches here is Coach, Threaten, and then Yell (note: you do not have my blessing to yell, unless you have read to the end of this blog post), and I’ll explain why below. Before we get into that, though, let me tell you what I told my son, to help him get through his meltdown.

My kids all play ice hockey and are all die-hard Flyers fans. They know hockey history extending back before they were born and are familiar with the good, the bad and the ugly sides of coaching. They know that there are what are called “players’ coaches,” the guys that the players will go to war for, because that coach has proven that he cares about his players. They also know that there are coaches that get players to go to war for them under threat of extreme punishment and making life completely miserable. So, I got down on one knee and looked my son eye to eye and asked him why he was upset. I then told him I wanted to tell him a hockey story and that I needed him to really pay attention to me.

This is the story that I told him:

Me: Do you remember when the Flyers were in the playoffs and they had lost the first three games of the best of seven series, only to battle back and win the next three?

Son: Yeah… then they gave up the first three goals in the first period of game seven…

Me: Yes! And then the head coach called a time out. Do you know what the microphones caught him saying to his team in the timeout?

Son: No… What?

Me: He said, “One goal at a time. You can’t go out there and score three goals at once. You go get the first one, then we’ll start thinking about the second one.” If you’re focused on all that you have to, on scoring three goals, or on doing twenty math problems, it’s completely overwhelming and you never get started. You just end up sitting there; paralyzed by your own anxiety and stress. So, don’t think about anything except the question that you are on now. Then, go to the next one. There is only ever what you are working on right now. Deal with what comes next when the time comes.

The perspective seemed to have helped tremendously. Will it always? No. Sometimes, you will have to calmly say, “listen, I understand that you’re frustrated. I understand that you are overwhelmed. I get overwhelmed sometimes. That’s just a part of life. But, when we can’t find a way to push through that, there are consequences: people lose their homes, their jobs, their spot on the team; or, in your case, if you can’t push through this, you’re going to miss [event or fun thing] so that you can get this done.” Then, if they don’t get it together, you have to follow through. But, there will still have been a value in taking the time to approach it this way. You may need to have the say conversation with them 1000 times before it all clicks – after all, think about how many times you still need to hear things for them to click for you! If it never clicks, at least you will know that you did everything that you could and that you didn’t leave them to figure it out alone – because you were too busy being frustrated/annoyed/proving you were the boss – you pick.

Yelling. Ohhhhhh… I almost forgot about yelling. I don’t think that yelling at someone out of anger or frustration ever accomplishes anything good. Even if it resolves your issue, because the person does what you want just to get you to shut up – it still isn’t productive in the long run, and you are modeling behavior for your kids. If you yell at them and then discipline them when they yell at you or each other, you escalated to modeling hypocrisy – do as I say, not as I do. However, sometimes, you just need to scream or yell and let it out. I’d recommend just embracing the fact that you’ve gone off the rails and just yell. Not at anyone, but, just you know, let it out. Then, once your kids know to expect this, you can all have a good snicker about it, and it will likely alert them to the fact that you’re a touch edgy today, and it might be best to try to get you extra grace and try to be a bit more cooperative. My parting thought: I’m telling myself, as much as I am telling you. We all need to work at this. It doesn’t come naturally.

Why Are You Teaching What You’re Teaching?

By: RealSchooling.com

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Albert Einstein was once presented with questions from the questionnaire to which Edison subjected prospective employees. When asked, “what is the speed of sound?” He responded, “I don’t know. I don’t burden my memory with such facts that I can easily find in any textbook.”

I recently saw a discussion about good ways to help students memorize the periodic table of elements. Why? There is so much to learn – so much worth learning.

As you contemplate the rest of this year, this summer, and next year, I encourage you to re-thi your approach to education. Of course, we have to focus on science and math. However, instead of committing energy to memorizing “facts that [we] can easily find in any textbook,” or database, shift that energy to critical thinking skills. We live in a world of shoddy information. Developing the skills to be able to identify the legitimate from the nonsense, or the signal from the noise, is of far greater value to a person than the ability to recall myriad facts.

If you are looking for some other great topics on which to focus, perhaps consider some of the following:

  • Logic & Reasoning
  • Decision Making
  • Cognitive Science (the study of thought, learning, and mental organization, which draws on aspects of psychology, linguistics, philosophy, and computer modeling.)

Whether you attend a RealSchooling.com course on any of these topics, or pursue them on your own, our genuine hope is that your family has an amazing homeschooling experience, and that you all get everything out of it that is possible!

Best,

Jeffrey D. Hoffmann, Founder – RealSchooling.com, RealSchooling.blog