I recently heard a parent opine that someone else’s kid should go into nursing. Perhaps the kid has a genuine interest in nursing, but the implication was “if your child becomes a nurse, she will always have a job and be ok.” I didn’t say anything because the conversation moved on quickly, but I wanted to shout “No! You can’t predict the economy! Your kid needs transferrable skills that can work in all sorts of careers no matter what happens in the job market!”
You can read about that in all sorts of adult-focused career books, but in Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, Ellen Galinsky applies the research to children, identifying skills and character traits that help prepare children for life in our fast-paced, unpredictable world.
The skills/traits are not surprising–if you sat down to think about it you might come up with a similar list. But Galinsky describes the research associated with each one, especially studies involving child development, and suggests ways that parents and educators can guide children toward these goals. I found that many of the suggestions are things I already do just by chance (reading out loud a lot, encouraging imagination play, allowing time for free play, sorting/categorizing/counting activities, not using baby talk or talking down to kids, etc) and several of the skills are character traits we have on our list of habits we’re working on (I find we circle back around to habits again and again or else we lose them). However, I also found that the book helpfully articulated some problem areas and offered suggestions I hadn’t tried.
The seven skills Galinsky writes about include:
- Focus and self-control
- Perspective taking
- Making connections
- Critical thinking
- Taking on challenges
- Self-directed, engaged learning
If you read that list and think “whoa, I have no idea if my kid knows that stuff” fret not, you probably have more of it in the bag than you think. And if you think “yeah, we have all of that under control” you might find that the book suggests aspects of the skill/trait that you hadn’t considered before.
Overall, I found this book helpful and interesting. The writing style is accessible, not overly academic, and practical, and would probably interest parents, teachers, and other people who are interested in habit formation and core skills.
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