Want to raise successful kids?

Here’s what we mean by ‘success’ at Prisma - and how we use it to help kids thrive.

Prisma Staff
• 
September 13, 2022

Everyone seems to have a free e-book that promises the recipe for raising successful kids from a young age. As children’s mental health has become more precarious — due to pandemic stressors, unchecked social media usage and more — there’s no shortage of promises to put kids on the path to becoming successful people.

But before wading too deeply into the parenting advice pool, it’s worth it to stop and ask, “Why do I want to raise successful kids? What does success mean to me?” Do successful children grow up to obtain monetary success, job satisfaction, or make an impact? Or is success about whether they can have fulfilling family and friends in their lives?

Another way to think about it is to ask, “What is my child’s future world going to look like?” and reverse engineer to determine what traits they need.

This might be counter to your instinct to focus on what made you successful when you were young and try to replicate that approach. But we know traditional markers of success, like grades and fancy diplomas, aren’t working.

According to Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford University dean and author of New York Times’ Bestseller, How to Raise an Adult, helicopter parenting has mental health consequences. Instead, she advocates for a hands-off approach that empowers young people to develop their own interests, build resilience, independence, sense of direction and purpose.

At Prisma, we call this “thriving,” and we define it as: finding and maintaining fulfilling and sustainable work, having positive social relationships, having emotional well being and making a positive impact on the world. Using that definition, we built our educational approach by asking, “How can we help kids thrive in the future?”

Today's generation of kids is going to live in a world of unprecedented change, starting from the possible career paths — many of which will be disrupted by AI. If 65% of today's elementary school kids will work in jobs that haven't yet even been invented, how do you prepare kids for a world like that?

In response to this challenge, we’ve created the four Prisma Powers.


The Four Prisma Powers - and How They Prepare Kids for Success

Kids need to be on track of their core academic subjects, granted. But the bottom line is: book-smarts are not enough. Many kids who look most successful in terms of their schoolwork, are least well equipped to thrive. Kids who’ve chased external goals like perfect grades or college admission often find themselves at loose ends when it comes time to enter the workforce, because they’ve never had the time to define their sense of purpose. That challenge will only intensify for the next generation that will live in a world that requires constant self-reinvention.

At Prisma, we develop kids in four areas that we think will develop lifelong learners who are prepared to meet whatever kind of world is out there.


1. Curiosity

If kids are curious about the world, they’ll be motivated to develop the skills to learn about it deeply, which puts them on the path to becoming someone who has the skill set and the mindset to be able to change careers, learn something new, or become an expert in a new or changing field.

To encourage curiosity, let kids lead the way: Give them room to explore their intrinsic interests, give them plenty of time to play, and encourage them to engage their environment.

At the same time, kids need to learn what tools are available to help them go beyond the first creative spark. That means helping them understand how to teach themselves something: What are good resources online and how do you vet a source? How do you reach out to an expert to seek their help?

At Prisma, we foster curiosity both in terms of what we do and what we don’t: Taking a project-based approach, we give kids freedom to choose their areas of focus within a given topic and incorporate local exploration as part of the assignments; and we don’t bog them down with endless assignments and meetings, so they can use their free time to follow their curiosity wherever it leads.

A curious kid is more likely to grow into a lifelong learner, which means they’ll be able to teach themselves anything at any time. If they find they’ve picked a career path that doesn’t fit or becomes obsolete, then they have the tools to figure out, “Where next?”


2. Innovator’s Mindset

Having an innovators mindset means being well versed in processes that help you solve problems and invent solutions. To do that, kids need to start thinking like a designer: clearly defining the problem, researching the end user, brainstorming and testing ideas, and then iterating until the solution is at its best.

There’s no “perfect” first draft for an innovator; it’s simply not the way innovation works. So in order to embrace this perspective, kids need to develop a growth mindset philosophy, pioneered by Dr. Carol Dweck. It requires getting comfortable with, and eventually embracing, feedback — and building up a tolerance for frustration. It's about letting go of a perfectionist mindset, which ultimately contributes to self-esteem and well being.  

Although building an innovator’s mindset is not just about creating future entrepreneurs, at Prisma we find a fun, rewarding way to work on this trait is by building a business, based on whatever skills, passions or interests your child has.


3. Communication and Collaboration

Most of the most attractive jobs require collaboration — a trend that’s only going to intensify in the future. If you want to be heard, you’re going to need to be able to express your ideas clearly and persuasively, both in writing and verbally.  

Communication and collaboration are two sides of the same coin: Effective oral and written communication is how learners can get a message across and collaboration is how they can get things done as a team.

To help your kid to develop their communication and collaboration skills, we recommend two things: encourage them to create the kinds of media they like to consume; and always have them think about their audience. Whether they are producing a podcast for their extended family, writing a letter to a politician, or editing the wikipage for their favorite video game, if they make something they are interested in consuming — for a real-life audience, they’ll be more committed to doing the hard work to bring it all together.

4. Initiative and Follow Through

You can be the smartest person in the world. But if you can't follow through on your ideas, develop a work ethic, persevere through challenges, be organized and set goals, then you'll never achieve have meaningful impact or reach your potential.

There is no roadmap to life. To be able to execute on a vision in a self-directed way, children need to learn hold themselves accountable to their own standards, not checking off a role model’s boxes.

Get kids involved in directing their own learning, by practicing time management and organizational strategies that work for them. At Prisma we do this by building goal-setting and self-reflection into our learner journeys, so that they feel the value of making a plan and bringing their ideas to life.

If you want to raise successful kids, start by asking yourself, “What skill sets and mindsets are they going to need to thrive in a world of unprecedented change?” Once you have an answer, make sure that their elementary, middle school and high school environments help them develop those skills — so that they’re well-equipped to meet life’s challenges.

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