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Are WE Preparing Our Kids for the New Realities?

July 26, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
We want what’s best for our kids. We want them to have a better life than we did.

But are we preparing them for the realities of the new economy and a way of life that may no longer exist?

No, this is not about speculating about what kind of jobs will be out there in the future and should our kids be teachers, techies or engineers.

It’s much deeper than that.

For many of us, we grew up with parents that experienced the Great Depression (that’s the first one in the 1930’s), and went through one of several wars. At some point in their lives, they experienced real hardship.

Because of this and other realities, many of our parents were not highly educated.

They were determined not to have us experience any of that.

For my 2 sisters and me, college was not an option – it was mandatory. It was part of the American dream that if you became educated and worked hard, you could become so much more than them.

Somewhere “becoming so much more them” became associated with “having so much more than them”: more money, a better job, a bigger house and faster car.

What a Waste?

For us, and to some extent for them, post-World War II or at least following the Vietnam War was a time of relative prosperity and peace. Sure there were hiccups with the economy and the threat of annihilation with the Cold War. However, the breaking down of the Berlin War seemed to be a victory for the American way of life.

For this period we were really the king of the worldly block. We could do anything it seemed and everything was possible. We could grow and gobble up.

As parents, perhaps as teachers and even community members, we look back at our own lives and perhaps regret we did not do more to take advantage of this “golden age.”

We may be thinking we spent too much time partying and just wasting time. If we could only have that time back now perhaps we could have been so much more.

Is the New Threat to our kids future Us?

So we orchestrate our kids’ lives so they do not make the same mistakes we did. We may also believe in the power of education like our parents instilled in us, except now college may cost over $50,000 a year.

We may perceive extra-curricular activity as ways that if our kids can “star,” they can go to a good school on a scholarship.

The thinking goes that a good education will get them that better job - for that better life than we have.

Except that those better jobs may not be out there. That perhaps our kids cannot afford that bigger house than we have or that better car.

Have WE Failed?

In fact, hang on to your hat, your kids may be looking at your house!

In this new economy we hear about how kids are coming back home to live as the jobs are not there. This extends to teachers, engineers and even lawyers.

We may need to start thinking differently. It may not always be - can our kids have more than we did but - can they survive?

How many of these young 20’s and 30 year olds are suddenly realizing their dream job may not be so easy to find? How many for now are waiter’s, construction hands or perhaps unemployed because they do not have practical skills?

And I am not talking about can you run a skill saw or wash dishes but for some of our youth it may not be until they are in their 20’s until they have their first job.

They were so busy with sports and school activities to position themselves to financially get into college, they do not have time to get a job – and who wants to work as a housekeeper anyways - that’s not what my kid is going to do when he grows up.

The New “Survivor”?

But by doing so have we not prepared them for the potential cold realities of our new world? What if they cannot get that dream job – or at least not right away? What if they do have to work in a totally different job?

Have we taught them the basics of a positive work ethic? Do they know:

• Being to work 8:00 means getting there by 7:45 to get ready? • That an IPod in your ear is not always appropriate? • To even ask “what is the dress code?” • Have we prepared them for dealing with the public and even simple things like looking someone in the eye when talking to them? • What is a commitment? That perhaps the school practice is important but not showing up to work can hurt local business survivability? • Are we giving them practical skills like multi-tasking, dealing with pressure and the confidence that they can succeed in different environments? • Have we forgotten as parents, that our fellow community citizens who are entrepreneurs can also teach our kids some valuable lessons and skills?

And it a 2-way street: employers can learn a lot from our kids in terms of how they think, what products attract them, what we can do better to position our own businesses for the future generations.

I don’t want to scare anyone here but I always preach in my small business classes to have an exit strategy and to be adaptive. Think about all the possibilities and the growth of your business but always consider how to get out if things change.

An “exit strategy” for our kids?

Our world today can change in a heartbeat through some terrorist or a remote countries bad credit. We are more tied into each other now than when the shooting of a foreign prince we had never heard of before stated World War I.

Our kids may also need to be adaptive just like our businesses and communities as we realize we need to think differently to survive. They may not be able to get that dream job or more money. If that happens can they survive by doing other things, have we given them basic work behavior skills to have the confidence to try?

The answer may be: “Ah, come on, they can get those skills when they are 21 – they are still young!”

Now think about our attitude with sports: “Man, if they don’t start when they are 5, they are not going to be good enough to compete.”

And they are supposed to “compete” as competent workers for those rare jobs in their 20’s with limited or no “training”?

“Become More” or “Have More”?

We may need skills from our citizens of the future that are adaptive and based on self-reliance. The new enemy may not be a bomb but food shortages. They may have to take care of themselves in ways that perhaps you and I did not but ironically our grandparents did.

It may be important to give our kids some of that adaptive and self-reliance work training - now.

As parents we may need to separate “having more” with “becoming more.”

Is this is one historical way of thinking we should change?


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