21st Century Skills That Kids Need

21st Century Skills: Light box sitting on a chair with the words "Think Outside the Box"

Written by Lisa Ellen Bean

Lisa is a co-founder at Empowered 4 Growth, an ICF certified coach and a mom to two boys aged 10 and 8. She blogs to share her journey of learning about raising strong, resilient, and confident children in the 21st century. You can reach Lisa by email at lisa@empowered4growth.com.

September 8, 2020

Think back 30 years ago to when you were growing up… could you have imagined how much would change? Perhaps the most striking change is our reliance on technology, the internet, our phones – these things didn’t exist when we were growing up but are now, in some way, a part of every element and minute of our lives.

It is widely accepted that the pace of change that we experienced is going to grow exponentially for our children. Although there are theories, we really don’t know what life will be like in 30 years…

So, what skills and experiences do we equip our kids with? What do we teach them?

As parents, and as co-founders of Empowered 4 Growth, we have made it our mission to prepare the next generation as best we can for a long and happy life. Our mission is to help parents and kids to develop skills that allow them to be authentically themselves, and which set them up for the road ahead.

So, yes, we have an opinion about what these 21st century skills will be, and how we can develop, execute and instill them in our kids today.

The list of 21st century ‘skills’ are not skills in the traditional sense: we avoided tactical things such as coding, geometry or biology. We believe that life will continue changing and that these may or may not prove to be important – we don’t know, and we don’t think anyone can know.

Instead, we want our kids to focus on learning how to learn, how to think, how to innovate – these things are more elusive, but will be far more valuable for the 21st century.

These 9 ‘skills’ are mindsets, they are ways of thinking about things, and may even be considered character traits to develop:

  1. Resilience, so that if (or, when) they get knocked down they don’t stay down. Read more on the topic of resilience in the blog post, Rising Again when a Dream Fades.
  2. Self-confidence and self-assurance, or in other words, the ability to stay true to their inner self.
  3. Mindfulness; a deep understanding of their inner self and outer world and how they work together.
  4. Self-drive and motivation. We don’t want kids who wait to be told what to do, or better yet, wait for it to be done for them. Instead we want them to pick up the torch for themselves and lead the way. Read more about creating self-drive in the blog post, Kids are Bored: Should Parents Care?
  5. Creative and critical thinking. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring but we are confident that it involves change. The ability to think creatively is one of the skills that leads to resilience through that change. Success will involve being a free thinker and problem solver.
  6. Love of learning. Encouraging curiosity and the drive to pursue whatever topic is engaging their minds and hearts.
  7. Communication and connection. A foundational skill to be a human. We want kids and families to connect well with each other, and children who build strong networks of support inside and outside of their family. Click here to download a guide to help build strong family communication and connection.
  8. Self-awareness. The ability to deep dive into their own inner world and to think about and bring understanding to their fears, hopes, dreams, passions, and strengths as an individual.
  9. Experience. Our core belief is that there is no better teacher than experience itself, so we encourage families and children to craft experiences to test out their newfound curiosities, knowledge of self, resilience, and other skill sets. Therefore, we have decided to deem the ability and willingness to engage in real-life experience as a skill in its own right.


If you want to hear more about education and 21st century skills, I highly recommend this video clip where Seth Godin is interviewed by LONDONREAL on the educational system. In Seth’s words “Most of the work that matters cannot be done by Artificial Intelligence (AI), it cannot be easily outsourced to someone cheaper than you. It’s not work we know how to teach in an education setting. It’s the soft skills, which I call real skills that transform people.”

Over the next few weeks, I will dive deeply into each of these core elements of our model. As elusive as these skills are they are possible to instill in our children through choices that we as parents make.

Stay tuned!

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  1. John Scott

    Great article Lisa.

    • Lisa Ellen Bean

      Thanks John! So glad you are here with us! 🙂



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