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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

We don't plan ahead so why should our kids?

The PowerPoint presentation I made for my kids was brilliant.  The logic was irrefutable.  I had relevant graphics and 23 different charts and graphs to prove my point not to mention the 3 slides of citations from established experts in the market.  So why don't they get it?  With all the data and life experience on my side showing that if they make an effort now, it will pay off in the long run.  It will increase their chances of getting into the college of their choice and after that the career they are interested in.  Should I have used a different background theme?  Instead of "Water Bubbles" I could have gone with "Hot Air Balloon".  Maybe that would have done the trick.

Sometimes it seems that no matter how many times we explain to our kids that what they do now will affect their choices in the future, they just don't get it.  We can certainly force them to do the things they need to do: homework, exercise, learn Chinese. But if we want our kids to be self-motivated and ambitious, they must "believe" that those goals are worthwhile to them.  How important was it to you at age 10 that you get into the right college and be a marketable candidate when you graduate?  Even if you thought about it (unlikely) you probably dismissed it as meaningless since it was a "million" years away.  There is no doubt in my mind that my own kids are the same.

No, I did not really make a PowerPoint presentation on the benefits of studying now in order to get a better job in the future and then force my kids to sit through it.  I was tempted, but since I don't really like PowerPoint anyway and my kids have already heard it all from me countless times I thought it was not worth the effort.

Humans seem to have a hard time processing anything further out than their next birthday.  In my career class at Temple University I ask students to describe their life 40 years in the future.  The results are entertaining and fun to talk through but that is about it.  We work our way back to 5 years which is still a stretch but at least that milestone allows us to pick some key things they should be working on right now. Apparently we don't even know what the future (as a concept) is until around age 2 and the ability to plan kicks in at kindergarten.  Are we (as adults) any better at it?  What is your 10 year plan?  What did you do today to help you reach your 10 year goals?  Corporations are even worse, most of them look no further than the next 3 months down the road and the earnings reports that will affect their stock price. So is it unrealistic to expect our kids (at any age) to understand and feel the urgency of what is coming up for them 10, 15 years from now? 

This article started out as a thesis on how we can get our kids to appreciate the value of making an effort towards a productive future (read as "getting a job").  I had some idea that by the end I would be able to say that following this approach would helps us drive this critical point through their remarkably thick skulls. I was wrong.  My conclusion is that we need to be pulling those lofty horizons back to within range of our kids own perception of time.  Instead of 10 years from now, how about 10 days? Now the problem is how to encourage them to study for that test coming up in 2 weeks without threatening them with being jobless, homeless, and miserable in the distant future...

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