How can parents prepare their children for the challenges of the 21st century?
Everyone knows parents want the best for their children. Even though the term “best” might be confusing. There are countless articles and guides about good parenting, but remember that every parent raises their children based on individual family values – what is most important in life and how to gain well-being and happiness.
These ideas of overall well-being and happiness rarely change much over time. Parents often pass on to future generations important values and traditions that have been in their family for decades or centuries.
However, the world around us is now changing rapidly. Computers only started appearing on office tables 30 years ago when mobile phones were rarer. But now, we can pay bills, check our health, and borrow books with our phones. It’s not just technology that has changed our lives, as climate change and globalization have changed our world too.
This raises an important question: Can parents’ guidance based on traditional family values still be valid and adequate? How can parents encourage their children to live meaningful and satisfactory lives in the future? Many parents are anxious about the quick pace of change in the world. What are the values and skills the adults of tomorrow will need?
Can parents’ guidance based on traditional family values still be valid and adequate? How can parents encourage their children to live meaningful and satisfactory lives in the future?
For that, we need to look at working life in the future. Even though some parents often think they are not responsible for their child’s future success in the workplace, it might be a good idea to reconsider because so many adults spend their time working.
In their book, 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, future researchers Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel predicted in 2009 that working life in the 21st century would be more fragmented because work will become based on short projects and not stable employment. It will become more and more typical that managers do not sit at the same office but far from their employees, probably in another country.
This means the ability to make choices while taking responsibility for them will be more vital than ever. It’s a natural need: young children always want to choose their favourite toy. When children go to school, they are willing to plan what time they do their homework or what to give their friends as a birthday present. Parents don’t always encourage this because they think adults must protect children from disappointments and harmful consequences of these decisions.
Indeed, children do not have an adult’s knowledge or life experience, which could lead to choices that are harmful to themselves and others. Yet, making a choice and implementing it helps children understand the consequences and their impact. If a child’s decision has been the right one, then their self-esteem improves because they start to believe in themselves. At the same time, they learn essential skills like decision-making and taking an active role in their personal lives. On the other hand, if their choice has been wrong, parents can help them to deal with the difficult moments and disappointments that are common in adult life.
Adults whose parents made all the decisions in childhood are often passive and helpless, avoiding decision-making and expecting someone to tell them what to do. In such cases, if the advice is bad, then they tend to blame the advisor instead of taking responsibility for their choices. If the given solution is good, they still aren’t happy because it wasn’t their decision. As a result, the passivity of life often produces unhappiness.
A parent’s role isn’t just to give solutions but to listen to children’s needs and brainstorm reasonable solutions with them.
All of this doesn’t mean that children should make decisions about everything. Here’s a parenting tip, let your child sometimes decide what the family will have for lunch or how they will spend the holidays. Good parents understand the developmental state of their children. They encourage them to take responsibility for their lives, experience autonomy in a safe environment and make choices in matters with which the child has a natural ownership.
You may now be asking what parents can do to prepare their children for the challenges of the 21st century. The best thing is to support children in decision-making and help them take responsibility for their actions. Both are primary tasks for raising children in the 21st century. A parent’s role isn’t just to give solutions but to listen to children’s needs and brainstorm reasonable solutions with them.
So, the next time your child tells you they are bored. Don’t just suggest what they could do but ask them what they want to do and remind them of their many options. Soon after this discussion, a child will produce many ideas about what to do, making it easy for that final choice. From teaching children to avoid problems and offering solutions, parents can encourage their children to regulate their own life, which is essential for the 21st century.
Dr. Markus Talvio is an Associate Professor and Program Chair for the Postgraduate Diploma in Education program at Sharjah Education Academy. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Helsinki, Finland having over 30 years of experience in the field of education. He served as a senior lecturer at the University of Helsinki from 2018-2021.
Responsible for training on interaction skills, group development and educational psychology in Finnish and English, pedagogy, and educational psychology for Finnish and international students in the Faculty of Educational Sciences. He has supervised two doctoral students and about 40 master’s and bachelor’s students. He has been responsible for innovative flipped learning courses and their digitalization with the team on Educational Psychology since 2018. Markus has produced 31 international scientific publications and has conducted 40 presentations at international scientific conferences and events since 2008.
Upcoming publications: a new book titled “Effective Interaction” by Markus Talvio and Ulla Klemola will be published in the Arabic language. The book introduces core skills for parenting and effective social interactions.