65% of the school aged kids will work in a profession that doesn’t exist yet. That’s according to numbers from the United States Department of Labor. It’s an extraordinary number! How can parents possibly prepare their kids for things that we can’t possibly know?
This may sound like one of those questions that doesn’t have a good answer, but after a conversation with a fencing parent recently I realized that actually we know exactly how to prepare our kids for a future that we cannot possibly know. This mom had a clear idea of how she was going to shape her child to be able to face the unknown in the future, and as usual I found that I learned a lot from a fellow fencing parent.
We raise them for health, adaptability, and confidence.
With those three things, a parent can be confident that their child will be able to meet whatever needs that the future demands of them. Fencing is preparing kids with all of these important skills, getting them ready for an adulthood that we aren’t sure of.
The future that we don’t know
First, let’s talk about the future a bit. What’s real is that we don’t know what the future is going to bring for our kids, not even what professions might be possible for them. Not in any very clear way at least.
For example, 30 years ago if I wanted to become a doctor I knew that I would work hard in high school, go to college and take hard classes, and then hopefully see patients. The path was pretty clear, and it was pretty straightforward that becoming a doctor was a way to make a good living while doing something that helped people. But things are changing rapidly. Now we don’t know what the future will hold for doctors or even if the profession will exist in the way that it does now. Who knows, maybe all family doctors will be replaced by robots. We’re seeing that a little right now with telemedicine. Maybe even some basic surgical or diagnostic procedures will be done by robots. Even the age old profession of doctor is changing.
That’s just one example. Twenty years ago if someone had told you that people would make a real living making funny videos that people watched on their phones, you’d have told them they were crazy. Or what if someone had said to you thirty years ago that one of the top companies in the world wouldn’t be selling anything, just letting people search for information for free. Technology is changing at a pace that is hard to fathom, and it’s only going to start changing faster. The kids of today are growing up with touch screens and instant communication. It’s totally unreal!
We don’t know the future. We can’t! Many of us who are raising kids now have grandparents and great grandparents who spent their childhoods with the radio being the most advanced technology in the home. Think about how foreign our lives would be to them! That’s how foreign the future will feel to us. So we have to think in the right direction to get our kids the support they need.
Parenting for the future
The more that parenting changes over time, the more it stays the same. In our modern times, the rules of parenting can seem to be a moving target precisely because we can’t seem to know what’s going to come next for our kids. But when you step back and think about it, even though we are living in extraordinary times, parenting has always been centered on getting kids the help and support that they need to be independent adults. Period. How we do that is the tricky part.
Boiling it down to the core of the matter, what we need are to teach kids three basic skills.
- How to be healthy.
- How to adapt to change.
- How to be confident.
When looking towards the future, if kids have these three skills then they can do anything, no matter what kind of careers are available in the future for them to pursue, even if those careers don’t yet exist!
Future preparation – how to be healthy
This trend towards more time on screens and less time doing physical activities is growing more all the time. I’m sitting in front of a screen writing this, and you’re sitting in front of a screen reading it. So screens aren’t all that bad because they can connect us. Too much of a good thing is not good though, and we are seeing the ill health effects of more screen culture in rising obesity and diseases that are related to the sedentary lifestyle.
It’s not just screens that are the problem. Fast lives are translating a lot into fast food, and that’s contributing to more health problems. When you’re running from screen to screen, it’s easier to grab a burger than to make a meal.
This is big part of where fencing can come in and help out. Fencing as a youth instills in kids physical activity and good eating habits. Oftentimes parents don’t know how to bring those elements into the lives of their kids. It’s a tough thing to figure out!
When kids fence, they’re getting into a physical activity that feels good in the bodies and is fun to do. The thing about instilling habits in kids is that it’s not about forcing them to do something, because then when you, the parent, aren’t there to make them do it, it won’t happen. Picking up that epee or foil is fun, it’s exciting. Kids want to do it, so parents don’t have to be back there encouraging them constantly to get up and get moving.
Kids learn that their bodies are amazing, and that their hands work for more than just flying over the keyboard or the game controller. They also learn that their bodies work better when they fuel them with good food.
Future preparation – adaptability
We started out by talking about how we don’t know what the future is going to hold careerwise for our kids. Most of our kids! The only way to prepare for that is for kids to learn the fine art of adaptability.
To succeed in an adulthood with constantly changing technology, kids will have to mold to what the here and now looks like, not to what technology looked like when they were kids.
Where fencing comes into play with this is through the brain training that happens through fencing training. Every moment of every match is an analysis, thinking about the opponent and adapting to meet the needs of their movement. The thrust of fencing is adaptability, it’s core element of the sport! That lesson of adaptability then bleeds over into all aspects of life, because it is teaching the mind to make adjustments.
This generation is growing up in a world where they can pull a phone out of their pockets and instantly google any question they may have. That kind if access to things that seem like answers discourages critical thinking skills, and it’s something that parents must work to combat. Our kids live in a world where it can be easy for things to be too easy. Going forward for our kids to find real success and happiness they must be able to think outside of the search box. The only way to do that is to train their brains to think independently.
The luxury of fencing is that when you are on the strip, there is no choice but to think for yourself. There’s no smartphone with an app to tell you what to do, no artificial intelligence to get you to the right position. You are totally on your own, totally independent. When the opponent does something new and different, you have to change to meet the needs that they present to you. You must adapt. And with fencing, you do this over and over again. Fencers hone their skills of adaptation over and over again, hundreds of times in a season.
We know for certain that the future for our kids is not going to slow down. The quick pace with which fencers must learn to adapt is a perfect way to teach kids how to change to meet the needs of the world around them.
Future preparation – confidence
Confidence is a key factor in what the future is going to demand of this generation. You have to believe in your ability to work with others and your ability to overcome challenges that are placed before you. Without confidence, success isn’t possible.
A common thread in everything we’ve discussed so far is the importance of technology in the world of the future. That technology is already creating an era of virtual world interaction as opposed to real world interaction. It’s easy to get sucked into the online world and forget that reality is the thing that matters most! This isn’t even that far into the future, it’s already a real issue right now. The problem is that virtual interactions don’t fuel the mind and the confidence of an individual in the same rich way that real world interactions do.
Fencing gives kids confidence. Real world, tangible, thriving and beautiful confidence. Every single fencer is going to get the rush of confidence that comes from getting a point or winning a match. It’s universal! It happens for all of them. It doesn’t matter if that fencer never makes it to the Olympic Games or wins a regional fencing title, fencing in a club regularly is still going to be a powerful way to build their self esteem.
Creating a strong social circle is another key to building confidence, and it’s another place that fencing helps tremendously. Fencers work with both peers and adults, and it’s a combination of interactions with both that is necessary for creating a strong and confident individual. The fencing club environment is a positive one, and the culture of fencing is widely focused on personal development as a means to fencing prowess.
Without a strong sense of self confidence, kids won’t be able to eat healthy or try for a better job or put an offer in on a house. Through fencing, they learn to trust their decision making ability.
Fencing carries on
Whether the future brings flying cars or AI doctors, if we want our kids to be successful in it, we have to prepare them with a self worth that comes from within them. The goal of parenting is not so much to have them succeed in the here and now when we’re here to hold their hands, but to have them succeed years from now when we aren’t there to hold their hands.
Of course we know that fencing will still exist in the future. It might be with wireless scoring or with blades made from a different metal structure, and the rules will continue to constantly change, but the sport isn’t going anywhere. Even if we can’t know the rest of what might happen, we can definitely know that our kids will be able to carry their epee, foil, or sabre with them into the second half of the twenty-first century. The sport has been around this long, and there are no signs of it slowing down!