Academic skills are not the only thing a child needs to succeed in life. What else is necessary and how can it be cultivated? Drawing on research from several fields in addition to theory and practice to identify building blocks for life success, this report establishes a framework to help answer those questions.

The authors define being prepared for success as young adults having the potential to fulfill their goals and what the report calls the “agency” and “competencies” to influence the world around them, along with a clear sense of who they are—an “integrated identity.” To that end, the report says, children need four qualities, or factors, that parents, teachers, afterschool professionals and other adults can help shape:

Self-regulation, the awareness of oneself and one’s surroundings, and management of one’s attention, emotions and behaviors to achieve goals.

Knowledge and Skills, information or understanding about oneself, other people and the world, and the ability to carry out tasks.

Mindsets, beliefs and attitudes about oneself, the world and the interaction between the two, which serve as the lenses through which individuals process everyday experiences; and

Values, enduring, often culturally defined beliefs about what is good or bad and what one thinks is important in life.

These qualities expand and reinforce each other through life, but some are especially important to develop during certain stages of childhood because they lay the groundwork for successful development in the next. Adults can nurture these qualities in a twofold way, according to the report: providing children and teens with rich experiences, and ensuring that young people have opportunities to reflect on the experiences. A key problem, the report says, is that disadvantaged youth often face extra challenges, including fewer opportunities for consistent, positive developmental experiences and relationships.

An infographic illustrates the framework. A research brief summarizes the report’s key points.

 Points of Interest

  • Children learn through experiences (including social interactions) and by reflecting on those experiences, they make meaning of them. Experiences and reflections are most valuable for development when they take place amid sustained and supportive relationships between children and adults, as well as among peers.
    Rich experiences + reflection on them=one way adults can help kids succeed later in life. #afterschool #education
  • Learning self-regulation in the preschool years helps children acquire academic knowledge and skills throughout their schooling. Developing healthy mindsets becomes especially important during the middle school years, while deciding one’s values is an important task during middle adolescence, beginning at about the age of 15.
    Self-regulation: important learning experience in #preschool years; healthy mindsets key for #tweens. #afterschool
  • All children need consistent, supportive relationships and an abundance of developmental experiences through the arts, sports or other activities—inside and outside of school.
    What kids need: consistent adult support/healthy developmental experiences through sports, arts, etc.—in and out of #school.

 Supplementary Materials