EPISODE 042 – Raising Successful 21st Century Kids


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In today’s podcast, Jane shares:

  • Some simple strategies to arm parents to raise kids who are ready to arrive and thrive in the 21st century.
  • Ways to examine our parenting styles and decide what we may need to change.
  • Learning skills & 21 Century skills: what are they and why do they matter?
  • And so much more!


Parents feel stressed sometimes, worried and overwhelmed about whether or not they’re doing the right things to raise capable, high-functioning kids who are ready for the real world that’s waiting for them. You’ve got this! You can support your kids every day by doing simple, common-sense things, to get them ready to launch.

Tap the podcast player above to listen now, or scroll down for the full transcription, references and ways to connect with Jane!

Raising Successful 21st Century Kids who are Ready to Thrive

I’m Jane Kristoffy, a proud Canadian woman. And I thank you for inviting me to share on this podcast today and for listening. I’m so excited to be here to chat with you about a topic I’m very passionate about, raising successful 21st century kids, kids who are ready to arrive and thrive in the real world that’s waiting for them. I’m passionate about this because as an educator and parent I know many parents struggle as they prepare their kids for life after graduation. Many don’t necessarily know what are the essential skills their kids need for the real world, and they don’t know how to support the development of them. My goal in this episode is to share some simple strategies to empower parents and give them clarity about what’s most important why they support their kids to school, and towards the end goal to launch them. Why me, why this topic, I’m an educational strategist, author, and speaker, I help kids and teens find their academic direction. I support them while they figure out who they are, what their strengths and passions are. And I guide them to unleash their potential so they can be the best people they can be. And I support their parents too. All while I’m finding my own way as a single mom of teenagers, and my Labradoodle, my Labradoodle summer,

I’ve spent more than 25 years working in education. And the majority of those years I’ve also been a parent and fairly recently as a single parent. So that means I’ve spent more than 25 years working and talking with kids, and listening to their parents share their struggles, and hopes and dreams for their kids. In the past few years in my work, I’ve deliberately collected honest feedback from parents about what keeps them up at night. Any aspects of parenting that cause feelings of worry, overwhelm or helplessness. At workshops, I collect forms from my audience on which parents use pen and paper to share openly and sometimes desperately in writing their worries about their kids. In response to my question, What keeps you up at night, the categories of their responses range from how to manage their kids academics, social issues and mental health to concerns about what the future holds? Parents are stressed, I see it, I hear it, they often don’t know what to do when certain situations arise with their children and teens. These are parents of kids of all ages, I get the fears because I have them too sometimes. I know parenting is a tough job and our role as parents and how we raise our children. It matters so deeply to us. We not only want to get it right, but our intentions are the best, most loving and caring intentions. So often, however, parenting feels messy and unmanageable. We can feel inadequate or plain rotten at the job. But here’s what I want to say today. You are not an inadequate, you’ve got this. There are many simple and easy things you can do to raise kids who are successful, capable, high functioning, polished and focused, young people who are ready to arrive and thrive in the real world that’s waiting for them. A world that looks very different from the one we, their parents, entered into just one generation before. And you don’t need to be a teacher, social worker, or psychologists to raise and launch successful kids. I’m going to tell you how. And as I’m talking, I know you’re going to nod your head and think to yourself, hey, I’m already doing all that stuff. You’re going to see you’ve got what it takes to prepare your kids to launch successfully. So here’s some things that parents can do. 


First of all, step one, get aware of your parenting style, and then you can tweak it if you need to. So take a hard look at what you’re doing. What’s your parenting style? Listen to the things you say to your kids, pay attention to the things you do or don’t do for them. Maybe there are things you can change or do better. What kinds of expectations do you have for chores, manners, bedtime routines or eating habits? Are your expectations realistic? What about routines? Do you have consistent daily routines for bedtime and bath screen time and meals and your discipline? Do you follow through? Or do your kids know you’re a pushover whose words mean nothing. Be real about your parenting actions? Are you a yeller? Do you talk to and listen to your kids about what’s happening in their lives? Do you think they feel heard and loved and validated? Get aware. This is step one to raising successful 21st century kids. Get more aware of your parenting style by putting your actions and attitudes under the microscope. Pay attention to your every move as a parent for a while. Are you the parent you want to be? Maybe you’re a permissive parent with no rules but lots of love or a helicopter parent who’s overbearing, overprotective, over scheduling and maybe over focused on your child but you love them a lot. You want the best for them or you’re a free range parent that kind of encourages your child to function independently with limited parental supervision. But you’re doing this too, that they’ll learn about life. Or maybe your hands off, you’re not super involved, and you’re leaving it up to your kid to find their own way, and learn through experience. Or maybe you’re authoritarian, your home is not a democracy with the loudest voices winning, you expect to be respected. And you believe that old fashioned rules are the best. You believe you can love your kids without spoiling them. Okay, so you’ve taken a close look at yourself. And I’ll ask what kind of parent are you? Are you one of the ones I’ve listed or a combo of some. The next step is for you to decide, if and how you want to change your approach with the kid. It’s up to you and there’s no time limit here or urgency. Make the changes you want on your own timeline, staying aligned with your values, but remembering that how you parent impacts the people you raise, how they turn out, their beliefs and their perspectives. 


Okay, step two, what parents can do to raise 21st century kids that are successful. Identify what are these essential learning skills and acknowledge that your child’s learning skills matter most as they go through school. Yes, they matter more than academic marks, grades and test results, especially for the kids in primary and middle school. Your kids’ effective learning skills or work habits are the solid foundation they need to achieve success academically, as they move through school, understand the importance of them. And remember that without a solid base, they won’t have what it takes to handle and grasp and absorb more and more material as they progress through school. They won’t be able to master more complex concepts later on either. Okay, so what are these essential learning skills? While they’re things like time management, organization, self regulation, responsibility, independence and collaboration to name a handful, you’re familiar with them. In report cards, the teachers summarize the student’s development of them. It’s usually at the beginning of the report card before subjects and grades are listed. And there’s usually a blurb of a paragraph or two describing what your child is like as a learner, and what it’s like to have them in class. In this part, the goal of educators is to identify a student’s strengths and needs in the learning process, and to outline how to support the growth of these learning skills and work habits. During parent teacher interviews. When I was a classroom teacher, I found parents often wanted to completely skip over this section of learning skills, and focus only on the subjects grades on the following pages, they would only look ahead to discuss specific progress in math, science, reading, writing. But make no mistake, the learning skills section, especially for elementary and middle school kids, is the most important part of the report card. And chances are that if your child or teen is struggling in school right now marks wise, it’s probably due to an unstable foundation of learning skills so far. If this sounds like your child, don’t fret, there’s lots you can do at home to support the development of these essential learning skills. Small, consistent expectations of your kids at home regularly will encourage them to become self sufficient, responsible and organized self starters. Think about tweaks you can encourage with their time management and organization skills at home. There’s tons parents can do. But first, let’s address another important set of skills parents need to know about to raise successful 21st century skill kids.


Step three for what parents can do to nurture in your kids, the essential 21st century skills. Yes, parents can make a huge impact here starting from the day their kids are born. And no, you don’t need any special training to do a great job with this. First of all, what are these skills to name a few resilience, which is the ability to bounce back after setback or failure, grit, a combination of passion and perseverance, growth mindset, or the idea that once ability is not fixed and that with effort achieving any goal is possible. And then there’s the six C’s. They include creativity, critical thinking, communication skills, compassion, caring, citizenship, and collaboration. So parents take control of nurturing these skills in your kids. You can do this starting by just being aware of them and their importance. Don’t leave it up to the teachers to take care of them. They’re too important. These are the essential skills. A new job market awaits our graduates. Our children may create or acquire jobs that do not yet exist, and they’ll earn their livelihood in compensation working remotely using different communication tools and schedules in ways we never thought imaginable. we as parents need to take advantage of moments with our kids day in and day out to make sure we help them develop these 21st century essential skills. 


Okay, now we know the learning skills our kids need to achieve academic success and the 21st century skills our kids need to arrive and thrive in the real world. And we’ve gotten in touch with their parenting styles. So what’s next? Okay, I’ll outline a few things that you can do. And these tips may seem like common sense. But the reality is, as parents, we can easily lose sight of even the simplest parenting strategies when we’re busy and distracted with our modern, full scheduled lives.

Step four, for what parents can do, model these skills with intention, be a positive role model, model what you want your kids to do, as parents where our kids first teacher, our kids watch our every move, how we eat, sleep, exercise, how we treat ourselves and others how we learn, relax, manage stress, stress and emotions, and solve problems. They constantly learn from us and they mimic what they see, through mimicry children master certain skills, they store away many of our responses to situations as clues to how they should manage similar future life moments. We parents are the most impactful teachers in part because of the quantity of time we spend with our kids. So we’ve got to tune in to our own behaviour, and notice the unintentional messages we send to them. We’ve met our children’s basic needs since they were born, we feed shelter, protect and nurture them. And we’ve done so since day one as a result, they rely on and trust us. So here are a couple reminders. Number one, walk the walk. Be aware that kids are paying attention. If we want to raise a punctual child, for example, we’ve got to be on time first. And always the stuff we want our kids to do. These are the behaviours we’ve got to emulate. Number two, when we make mistakes, work through solutions, so our children can see our problem solving processes, and communicate well, so they can learn from how we manage all situations, especially the challenging ones. In summary, we can’t underestimate how important our role as teachers is to our kids, and the fact that we model behaviour, attitudes and skills to them on a continual basis. 


Step five, for what parents can do. Give your kids responsibilities. Yes, give them chores, expect them to do stuff, and be prepared for eye rolls and the comparisons to their friends who never have to help out or do anything extra at their houses. Get ready for the younger ones to melt down or show resistance to your requests. You’ll have these conversations and moments with your kids and teens. It’s normal and that’s okay. Give your kids responsibilities, they will become more independent as a result, and so have expectations of them. As parents in this day and age, it’s hard not to want to do so many things for our kids. We love to pitch in. Sometimes it’s just easier to do things ourselves. I know I’m guilty of this thinking. Author Julie Lyftgott-Haims explained in her book How to Raise an Adult, one of the key life skills our children must develop is the ability to live without us. But many parents don’t see this as their end goal and instead insist on doing everything they possibly can for the children, because they think this will make their lives easier and better. So here are some simple tips to promote responsibility and independence in your kids at home. Expect more of them, give them chores, leave them alone to deal with their homework on their own. Ask them what you think you should do when they come to you to ask for help solving problems in any area of life. Start this from when they’re little. Encourage your kids to be free thinkers who have their own ideas and opinions and depending on their age, ask your kids to walk the dog alone in the neighbourhood bike to the grocery store to get something for dinner. Don’t be afraid to have your child walk home from the bus stop from school or from a friend’s house. age appropriate Of course, give them responsibilities and encourage their independence. But be the home base and unconditional safe place to get your kids can return when they need to. And so when they want to go out and take a risk in life at school and beyond, they’ll feel secure knowing there’s a comfy, safe place for them to return to with you there when they need it. Always. 


Step six for what parents can do, help kids create their own village. Empower your kids to build their own social network, their own web of support with their own people, even from a young age. Encourage your child to have relationships with kids at school and people in the neighbourhood too. Don’t fuss about them having best friends. No, that’s not the focus here. Often childhood friendships take time to deepen and it will begin to organically really strengthen later in life anyway. Encourage your kids to build connections with other adults such as teachers and coaches and aunts and uncles. So they have more than just mom and dad to turn to to get answers or listening ear and in case they ever feel disconnected from you and this will happen no doubt at some point probably more than once. Then you’ll feel secure knowing someone is there. Providing guidance and support to your child or team provides opportunities for your kids to build a secondary group of friends, which is very important during the teen and tween years when life can get social, socially complicated and sometimes thorny, even close friends can have their ups and downs. For example, kids who are part of rep sports teams or leagues or dance troops require these kids to have friends outside of school friend groups, and summer camp is another great way to increase the social network as well. Having secondary friend groups means there’s always somebody from family to chat with on social media or by text. If you’re separated by distance, but needing a friendly face or ear. Help your child build their own village. 


Step seven. Help your kids have a sense of autonomy and control over their lives. Allow them and encourage them to make daily decisions for themselves. Give your kids a sense of control and autonomy in their daily lives by giving them the space and opportunities to make meaningful choices on a regular basis. And their book The Self Driven Child, Williams Stixrud and Ned Johnson explained that in order for kids to be self motivated, parents and teachers have to take a step back to help them find their inner drive to teach to reach their full potential in life, and to take control of themselves. We adults need to get out of our children’s way. handing over control to our children and teens to make their own meaningful daily choices will teach them competency and decision making skills. They are capable of many things and sometimes we don’t know what’s best for them. Often, they know better. Making the simplest daily decisions such as what to wear, how to spend free time, or when and how to complete homework and chores empowers kids with a sense of autonomy and control. Stixrud and Johnson also say that the kids who decide to do homework or not, with no parental involvement are happier, less stressed, and ultimately more capable of navigating their lives. So try this, give your kids their own private space so they can learn to enjoy spending time in their own company, and then give them the chance to make choices. meaningful ones starting out as basic as what cereal to eat for breakfast, but then progressing to decisions like how to schedule their stuff on a Saturday, and how to arrange the furniture in their bedroom.


Step Eight. Outsource when you want to or need to. That means get help raising your child. You can’t do everything. And you’re not the expert in everything either. So outsource when you need to invite in other experts to take over sometimes and this can strengthen your relationship with your child or team. I’m an educator by profession and I work with kids for a living. Despite this, my teenagers are better off learning many things from other people. I outsource because when I feel like I’m nagging or harassing my kids, and that’s usually when I’m trying to teach them something. I think of that muffled peanut voice in the cartoons the one that played anytime an adult spoke, want want want want want what, I often feel like my kids aren’t hearing the words I’m saying they’re just blocking them out. So over the years, I’ve hired outside experts to tutor and teach my kids skills like driving, skating, chemistry, calculus, swimming and skiing, to name a few. I spend this money because I want to maintain a healthy relationship with my kids. They know how to annoy me and they’re not interested in listening to me about many things. Also, I’m not an expert in everything. There are better teachers out there for many skills and lessons. Don’t be afraid to outsource.


Alright, to wrap it up. I think we agree that parenting is a tough job, and how we raise our children and how they turn out it matters so deeply to us. We want to get it right. Even though parenting can sometimes feel messy and unmanageable, and sometimes we feel inadequate or plain rotten at it. We’ve got this. Just remember to be aware of your parenting. Support your kids development of the essential learning skills and 21st Century Skills every day all the time, so they can achieve academic and personal success. Be a role model, doled out responsibilities, help your child create a village. Give them a sense of autonomy and control in their lives, and outsource when you need to. There are simple and easy things that you can do to raise kids who are successful, capable, functioning, polished and focused. Young people who are ready to arrive and thrive in the real world that’s waiting for them and note, you don’t need to be a teacher, social worker or psychologist to raise and launch successful kids. So best wishes as you raise your kids and guide them through school and life. enjoy every moment. Good luck.

Show References:

  1. Lythcott-Haims, Julie.  How to Raise An Adult. Break Free of the Over-Parenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2015.
  2. Stixrud, William and Ned Johnson.  The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over their Lives. New York: Penguin, 2019.


Would you like to connect with Jane online? You can find her at  www.righttrackeducation.ca and on Instagram @jane_right_track

You can also pre-order Jane’s upcoming book here Launch Your Kid: How to Promote Your Child’s Academic and Personal Success (without being a helicopter parent)  (-available globally January 21/2021)

Would you like to be a contributor on the SHE SPEAKS podcast? Head over to https://author.thegreatcanadianwoman.ca/podcast-form to apply now! Not sure you’re ready for the world of podcasting but still have a message you’d like to share?  Apply now to be featured on our blog at https://author.thegreatcanadianwoman.ca/blog-form

Jane Kristoffy

Jane Kristoffy

Jane Kristoffy, MEd, is an educational strategist who helps students find their academic direction. She motivates adolescents to unleash their potential by helping them develop their learning and life skills, and find their passions and strengths. A teacher and guidance counsellor for over twenty-five years, Jane founded Right Track Educational Services in 2012. She’s a popular speaker on a variety of education and parenting topics, as well as a regular guest expert on national television news programs. In 2021, Jane released her first book entitled Launch Your Kid, which is jam-packed with no-nonsense tips for parents about how to get their kids through school and ready for the real world!




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