Proactive Teaching: Life Lessons for The Future

By Renée

January 14, 2022

emotional intelligence, life lessons, positive self-talk, proactive teaching, responsibility

We all wish, at some point, that we could see into the future. At the very least, we question how many decisions we would have made differently with access to a crystal ball. Instead of thinking about the impossible, what if we instead turned our focus to being as forward-thinking as possible? It may not give us the same insight as a time machine, but it’s the closest thing we can realistically access. This is where the value of a proactive, rather than reactive, attitude can make a difference for both parents and children alike. It’s worth teaching kids to be proactive at a young age because this is such a valuable perspective to have.

By teaching kids to be more proactive, we impart on them a mindset that will allow them to differentiate between what is within their control and what is outside their sphere of control. Proactive teaching and this mindset, which will be the focus of today’s article, is the key to giving children a greater feeling of control over their lives and can help reduce feelings of self-doubt, confusion, and hopelessness. Let’s take a look at how this is all possible and what we can do as parents and teachers in order to inspire this kind of mindset.


What is Proactive Teaching?

Proactive teaching means teaching kids to adopt an “I am in charge of my life” mindset instead of simply accepting the way things are or accepting feeling that their lives are out of their control. This could mean a complete shift in thought for many kids who think that their parents are their guiding stars and possess complete control over them. What kids with that mindset don’t realize is that one day they themselves will be making the same decisions and taking on the same responsibilities their parents have taken on.

The central idea around proactive teaching is embracing responsibility for one’s own actions. Being proactive is all about taking responsibility for our own actions, and therefore, lives. This mindset will help your child succeed at whatever they try. One of my favorite quotes on this comes from the late Stephen Covey, who said:

“Look at the word responsibility—“response-ability”—the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.”

But the question remains, why teach kids to think this way and adopt this attitude at a young age? Shouldn’t kids have time to enjoy childhood without having to be challenged with such advanced concepts? Why do they need to start thinking about the future so soon? While it is true that children deserve to be able to enjoy their childhood and not feel rushed into adulthood, there is no reason why proactive teaching cannot be incorporated as a part of a complete and healthy childhood experience. Let’s examine why teaching kids to be proactive can actually complement a typical child’s development.


Why Focus on Proactive Teaching?

young child with spiral toy proactive teaching

So much is uncertain when you’re a child making every attempt to understand how the world works. Taking the time to differentiate between what is in our control and what is outside of it can be monumentally helpful. The idea that we have to be able to adapt and accept certain things in life is a lesson that can take many years to learn, but the process can begin at a young age. This quote from fellow author and blogger Rebecca Deurlein illustrates exactly why it is important to teach our children to anticipate and seek to avoid potential problems or obstacles rather than to wait for problems to arise and then deal with them as they occur, which we all have plenty of, naturally:

“Children are already at a disadvantage with an undeveloped frontal lobe that hinders their ability to see long-term, to think about the consequences of their actions, or to plan ahead. That’s why we often shake our heads and ask, ‘What were they thinking?’ when it comes to this age group. They weren’t. They haven’t learned to be proactive, to consider that what they are doing now matters to their future.”

A proactive view of the world inspires us to be more than just victims of our situations, it allows us to take ownership over our lives and regain feelings of control. For many children and teenagers, this can be the difference-maker when they become victims to their unpleasant thoughts and emotions. Ultimately, this change in approach and outlook can have a massive reductive effect towards negative self-talk and a more positive outlook overall.


How to Inspire a Proactive Mindset?

There are a few key ways that parents can help their kids adopt this proactive mindset, but none of them will be effective unless the child really understands why it’s so important. On this note, our first tip will be mostly geared toward explaining the why so let’s get right into it. 

—Teach by example. Using examples from your own life, you can explain where a more proactive mindset could’ve changed the course of your life. Maybe you had a chance to invest in Apple in the 70’s and you instead bought a guitar with that money? Or maybe you missed out on a great job opportunity because you weren’t thinking ahead enough? Whatever the examples are, these will illustrate exactly why this proactive approach is so necessary.

When the kids see what a difference this new mindset has made in your life, they will understand the example you’ve set and how they can work it into their own lives. Then when they experience their own situations whereby a reactive mindset was necessary in the absence of a proactive one, that’s the best teaching moment. Have a conversation about what happened, avoiding criticism and judgment. 

—Long-term goals. This is a big one and can further assist the why portion of proactive teaching. What are kids going to do with a proactive mindset if they don’t have anything big to work towards? Emotional intelligence teaches us to be mindful of our big and short term goals and proactive teaching is no different. Goals give them something to work towards and give them a reason to think proactively. For each of their interests and hobbies, ask them goal-setting questions. What are they working towards? What do they want to be able to do? Why does that thing matter to them and how far are they willing to push themselves? These are all things we secretly ask ourselves, but rarely do we express them to others.

Our jobs as parents in this stage is not to push them harder, but to listen and help them figure out for themselves what it is they truly want to put their effort towards. Then teach your child how to have a proactive mindset to achieve their goal(s). What might prevent you from accomplishing what you’ve said you want to achieve? What are some strategies that might work to overcome those potential obstacles? In the long run, they will know how to streamline their effort,  prioritize their most important hobbies and activities and overcome obstacles that get in the way of achieving what they want to achieve.

domino effect proactive teaching

—Better to be ahead of things than playing catch-up. This is a lesson I’m sure many of us could have used in high school and college. How many times did you stay up late the night before a big paper was due only to rush through a hasty, C+ essay? We’ve all been there and these nights could have been prevented by having foresight and a proactive mindset. We need to teach kids to prioritize their schedules and to take their assignments seriously, not leaving them until the night before they are due. This can be successfully implemented with parental engagement and coaching at first, but as the child gets the hang of doing it on their own more and more, you can remove your help bit by bit until they are doing it completely on their own.

I hope you all learned as much as I did about the value of this style of education and the kind of mindset it creates. Too often, we miss opportunities or make regrettable decisions because we weren’t forward-thinking enough or we simply didn’t leave ourselves enough time or space to be able to think ahead. Teaching kids how to be proactive is a tool to reduce this and to make sure our kids are thinking about how to change the future because you can’t change the past.



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