The things your kids need to learn

A while ago I reacted on an article that was shared on Facebook with the title ‘7 Things Kids Need To Do For Themselves Before They Turn 13‘. My reaction was the following:

It’s a sad world where these are the top 7 things that our children need to learn. Money at number 1???? Really? That’s saying money, a completely made up thing, is the most important thing in the world? Yes, made up, unless you can show me the fields where it is harvested or the mines where it’s dug up. Sure, we’re stuck with it for now but what about these things?
Empathy: learn that not everyone’s situation is the same and learn to see things from someone else’s perspective.
Critical thinking: question things. Don’t accept everything as a fact just because people say so. Scrutinize and do some research.
Collaborate: we are not alone on this planet. As the saying goes: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Mental care: we don’t only have a body, we have a mind too. A 5 year old knows what a band aid is but often even adults don’t know how to handle traumatic events. Children should know that feeling sad is ok and that you can reach out to others for support.
Dealing with failure: failure is part of life and part of learning. It’s ok to fail. Give children a growth mindset and not a static one.
Self worth and reflection: everyone is worthy. And we all need to self reflect and take responsibility for our actions. From there, compassion is born.
Purpose: what we need most of all in life is meaning. Not just chasing after achievements because ‘it looks good’.
Stewardship of the earth: we all share this one planet. We need to take care of it because it’s the only one we have.

It’s one of the most commented on comments I have ever made. And I am happy to say it remained civilized and people made some really good remarks. Someone suggested I write my own version, which lead to this article. The one remark that came up quite often was along the lines of: a lot of people are struggling with money and it’s important to learn how to deal with money.


But it doesn’t end there. My main gripe with the original article was that it only talks about skills we need to survive in the current day society but completely ignores the fact that the current day society is created by the people in it. That means that society can and will be changed. If we want to prepare our kids for the future they need to know this. And we need to teach them the skills to participate in that change in a constructive way.

So I’ll add some nuances to my original post. Yes, kids need to learn about all the things in the article … AND they need to ask themselves: why do I need those skills in the first place? Why do I need them in order to survive in this society?

We need to teach kids to ask fundamental questions like:

  • What do I value?
  • How do I want to be treated by others?
  • How do I treat others?
  • Are how I want to be treated and how I treat others consistent with each other?
  • What kind of world do I want to live in?
  • What can I do to help shape that world?
  • What needs to be changed in the world of today in order to get there?

We need kids to remain curious and question the world of today. Questioning leads to understanding. And understanding leads to insight. That way they are able to figure out what is improving our quality of life and what is not. And this too gives them an understanding of what money is and all the other items on that original list. It, for example, also gives them an understanding of how money works on a deeper level than their paycheck. Because one thing that I haven’t found on any curriculum on money is how it is created. Even in economics classes this is not taught.

We don’t question enough and blindly follow the patterns laid before us. We don’t question the monetary system, we don’t question the political system, we don’t question the ‘work for a living’ paradigm and we don’t have adequate arguments for not questioning those.

This inquisitive frame of mind needs to be paired with skills that help determine the trustworthiness of information. We live in an age where misinformation preys on the ignorant. That is what our kids need protection from. Not by filtering all that information out but by teaching them how to separate the trustworthy and the plausible from the bullshit. Because no one can know everything we need to be able to find trustworthy sources.

If we manage to teach our kids all that we empower them to create a future they want to live in instead of submitting them to a world where they feel powerless.

Also published on Medium.

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