How to Prepare Kids to Thrive in a Rapidly Changing World

This podcast will focus on how we can help kids thrive in a world that has changed from the one in which we came of age. We may be pushing for top grades and top positions on the sports fields- but what companies are looking for are employees with foundational skills such as competence, the ability to collaborate, creativity and self regulation. Information is available at the swipe of a finger—but these foundational skills is what people need to make progress. How can we parent to help our kids to be ready for this new world? Madeline Levine, author of “Ready or Not” is on How to Talk to Kids about Anything to discuss the answers.

Guest Expert: Madeline Levine, PhD

We live in an uncertain world. Modern times from politics to illness to how the economy functions, racial and gender bias and even the opening and closings of schools and camps has taught us that. Nobody can perfectly predict what is to happen from year to year, month to month and even from day to day. The world we know can feel disturbing and unfamiliar, at times. In the wake of what feels increasingly threatening and unpredictable to parents, moms and dads are pushing their kids to excel, swooping in to rescue them from struggle if it gives them an extra edge, and leaving the kids unprepared, fragile and reliant on others when they are faced with challenges and adversity. And I can’t forget to mention, the stress and anxiety, exhaustion, overwhelm and distress that come in heaping portions when kids wake up facing a future that they have not been prepared for or they feel ill-equipped to cope with, it not exactly a recipe for success. Of course, we too, as parents are stressed out as we compare ourselves incessantly with the Jones’s who are leading their perfect lives on Facebook and Instagram while we worry about what school our children will attend, which extra sport or activity they can take to round out their resume and when in the world they will learn another language to make themselves more marketable. But, my next guest tells us, there is hope. We are learning what skills our children really need in order to succeed- and they have to do less with learning to code and taking AP history and more to do with adaptability, mental agility, curiosity, collaboration, tolerance for failure, resilience, and optimism. Most important, my next guest provides the day-to-day solutions parents can use to raise kids who are prepared, enthusiastic, and ready to face an unknown future with confidence and optimism.

Madeline Levine, Ph.D. is a psychologist with over 35 years of experience as a clinician, consultant, educator and author. Her New York Times bestseller, The Price of Privilege, explores the reasons why teenagers from affluent families are experiencing epidemic rates of emotional problems.  Her follow up book, Teach Your Children Well, also a New York Times bestseller, tackles our current narrow definition of success – how it unnecessarily stresses academically talented kids and marginalizes many more whose talents and interests are less amenable to measurement.  Her current book, Ready or Not, focuses on how to best prepare our children and ourselves for an uncertain and rapidly changing world. Her books have been translated into multiple languages. Dr. Levine is highly sought after as a lecturer and keynote speaker for parents, educators and business leaders both nationally and internationally. Currently she spends most of her time speaking to parents, educators, students and business leaders as well as consulting with major corporations and high net worth individuals.

Dr. Levine and her husband of 40 years, Lee Schwartz, M.D., live in San Francisco are the incredibly proud parents of three adult sons and a newly minted granddaughter.

The podcast provides:

  • How to help kids thrive in today’s society
  • How “soft skills” are actually the foundational skills need to thrive in today’s world
  • How parents play a key role in how their kids thrive- and need to look at themselves first to see how they contribute to their children’s development.
  • How the culture of the household plays into how the child sees his/her competence.

Important Messages:

  • Was seeing in her office kids, who on the surface, looked like they had everything but turned out, were miserable. Madeline tells the story of the teen who carved the word “empty” in her arm.
  • Professionals traditionally help kids who seem depressed and anxious with medication and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) but these kids did not fit that method of assistance.
  • From her book Price of Privilege to Ready or Not, rates of unhappiness and anxiety rose. Why??
  • Anxiety – partly genetic and partly environmental. 30% of kids have an anxiety disorder. The genetic component hasn’t changed- so what’s going on with the environment?
  • “Genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger.”
  • What’s happened in this culture that’s impacted anxiety?
  • In order to solve the anxiety problem in young people, we have to go back to the definition of success. Success has had a very narrow definition for a long time. It’s been about good grades, it’s been about the right college, the select team, very performance-based. In things that are public. In narrow-related areas. (Parents are putting a bumper sticker on their car that says “proud parent of the best car-collector).
  • Scarcity mentality. If your kid gets into Brown, then my kid will not. It’s become competitive not collaborative. Companies are looking for collaboration. Content has gone to the bottom of the list. It doesn’t mean that content doesn’t matter- it’s what you DO with that content. Collaborate? Creative?
  • What do people who are in the middle of change saying about change? What were they looking for? Competence, flexibility, self-regulation, resilience, creativity. These are teachable skills.
  • We haven’t been preparing our children for the “new” type of successful they truly need to be. They look great on paper but not in real life.
  • How do you solve this problem? What are parents going through? Must deal with themselves. Jobs require different skills. How are we preparing them? Why are we not preparing them? We are incredibly anxious selves.
  • 1 in 3 kids have anxiety. 1 in 3 adults are anxious too! Bifurcated economy. Winners or losers. Nobody wanted kids to be losers. Head nodding. Can’t afford for my child to be “an experiment.” But kids need to become more creative and adaptable- can’t afford for them not to be.
  • Parents need to do some self-reflection: What are they worried about? Kids not making a living? Not keeping up with the neighbors?
  • Dinner time conversation: Is it reflecting the positive values you want? Family culture needs to be what you truly value.
  • Madeline would tell them what went wrong- showcasing that life is about challenge and you have the skills to overcome them.
  • Scenario: Math grade falling, parents concerned. Three options, take guitar away, get tutor, when grade comes up- more time on guitar. Mentioned to head singer of Metalica- what happened to start a band? Expand notions of our own notions of creativity, much better off.
  • Arts might not help GPA- but that is where creativity is valued and developed. Pay attention to your child when they exhibit creativity.
  • Showed boredom when patients would talk about grades but perked up when talked about creativity.
  • Parents need to listen. How well do you listen to your kid?
  • These skills are critical. They’re necessary. They make for better workers, better partners, better friends, better parents. They are foundational skills.
  • The skills that we are often dismissive of or think are a lesser- find out when kids become passionate or enamored by it- show grit about it in process of learning, learn to collaborate, learn to self-regulate. Might be chemistry. Might be ferns. But you can learn skills during this. If they are engaged and serious about it- translates into a life skill.
  • The culture of the house is important. Listening is important. Drop the agenda.
  • Accumulated anxiety- if you are doing everything you can to make sure your child isn’t exposed to what makes him uncomfortable, it’s the exact opposite thing you are supposed to do.
  • Help them create mantras: You can do it! You can do hard things.
  • You get confidence when you are competent. They can ask for help- you can be the support.
  • Must be taught to tolerate disappointment.
  • How many people have never had their heart broken? How can you learn to tolerate having your heart broken?
  • Four Ss: What kids need to thrive. Stability, security, being soothed, being seen. You may be having a hard time but if they have those things- these 4 Ss are what you need. Do the best you can.
  • What’s the goal? To come out of this with an intact family.
  • Communicate some trust in your child that they can handle this.
  • Try practicing the phrase; “Hey Honey, I think you’ve got this!”

Notable Quotables:

  • “Our kids’ lives have become incredibly competitive as opposed to collaborative. This is completely out-of-line with what corporations are looking for in employees.”
  • How do admirals, generals, CEOs, heads of hiring navigate change? What are they looking for? Competence, flexibility, curiosity, creativity, self-regulation and resilience. These are all teachable skills. They are just as teachable as Calculus! But we have always considered them soft skills and haven’t devoted the time to them that we have to ensure that SATs are high.”
  • “In this incredibly bifurcated economy there were winners and losers. Nobody wants their kid to be a loser so they push and push. Parents say; ‘I can’t afford for my child to be an experiment.’ I say; ‘you can’t afford for your child to NOT become more creative, more adaptable, more flexible.’”
  • “What you focus on makes a difference.”
  • “Life is full of challenge and you have the skills to overcome them.”
  • “No matter how much your kids roll their eyes at you, you are still the most important person in their life.”
  • “Every kid is different. Every family is different.”
  • “When a parent tells me that their kids don’t listen to them I ask; “how well do you listen to your kid?”
  • “These skills are critical. They’re necessary. They make for better workers, better partners, better friends, better parents. They are foundational skills.”
  • “What is the goal? To come out of this with an intact family.”
  • “Create an environment where your children feel stable, secure, soothed and seen.”
  • “I can promise you, that that grade that your child got in Social Studies in the 7th grade does not matter what matters is that your kid has a good moral compass, has good values, knows how to respect people, who makes good relationships and wants to contribute.”
  • “You can focus on your kids but focus on yourself because how you are doing has more with how your kids are doing than anything else.”

Resources: