Monday, May 24, 2010

Cognitive vs Non-cognitive Skills

How valuable is to teach our kids to build there confidence before building their intellect. Lately I have been reading some parenting books as I am about to have my first child and thought about my own path to knowledge. I realized that the most valuable skill that I developed as a child and later as a young adult was to constantly build my self confidence to overcome obstacle and failures in life.

For an adult self-confidence is rooted in our self-image (who we are, what we have accomplished, how the world view us, etc). Those adults that have developed greater self-confidence are accustomed to focused on those metrics that put them on top. For example, athletes value stamina, speed or physical strength; bankers value networking and number skills; etc. A confident banker is not going to value "physical strength" above "networking skills" because it would go against it self-image of a successful professional.

For kids having a clear path to building self confidence is a little trickier as they have not yet developed an area of expertise. Kids do not know in what they are good so they do not know in what metrics to focus. Even worst, kids are easily convince that the metrics that matter are those imposed by a minority of kids, reinforced by our stereotypical movies and entertainment shows (e.g. beauty over intelligence). Most of the self-image comes from how parents and friends perceive them.

Here is were we need to change as a society. We need to start putting real effort to building self-confidence in kids by including this objective in the curriculum of schools. Self-confidence is not a substitute of knowledge but a necessary complement.