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8/17/15blog post

predict the future with a test at age 5

Teachers are among the most caring and dedicated people I know. However, through no fault of their own, they are using a curriculum that does little to help our kids be successful in life.

If I was in charge of our schools, I’d eliminate most of the mandated testing and reduce the focus on academics by around 10-20 percent. Instead, I’d require that classes in life skills be taught throughout kids’ school careers.

An article published in the July 2015 issue of the American Journal of Public Health gives us some great insights about the skills that are really important to be successful in our lives.

This is a fascinating study that took 20 years to complete. Children from four different communities were evaluated when they were in kindergarten, and their progress was routinely monitored until they turned 25 years of age.

The skills that predicted how these young people eventually turned out were not their academic achievements, but rather their social competencies. These included youngsters’ abilities to resolve problems, give suggestions without being bossy, understand others’ feelings, cooperating, help others, and being nice to peers and adults.

Kids who scored high on these skills in kindergarten were more likely to graduate from college and have a full time job. Children scoring low on those skills at age five were significantly more likely to drop out of high school, engage in criminal activities, and abuse drugs and alcohol as young adults.

Isn’t it amazing that we can give a test to a five-year-old and predict the likelihood of what will occur to that person twenty years later?

The good news is that these life skills are not innate and unchangeable, but rather can be taught and fostered by parents and teachers.

These research results shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us. Think for a moment about the people you truly admire. What do they have in common? I’m sure they are technically proficient at work, but their success is more influenced by their social competence.

I work with lots of intelligent and caring people. However, the people I truly respect are highly skilled at solving problems in a respectful way, caring about people’s feelings, listening, being nice, and cooperating.

These are all the same life skills that predicted the success of the kids in this study.

While it would be great if school systems developed a curriculum based on those attributes, parents obviously have a key role in teaching and encouraging those types of behaviors.

Try this. Instead of asking your children how they did on some test or school project, show concern about how they are developing the social skills that are truly essential for their success.