Six Ways of Raising Employable Kids

My mother didn’t do one part of parenting that well: she treated me as if I were too important for ‘real’ life. I never had to do any housework and she never brought me down a peg or two, which I sorely needed. She gave me the impression that jobs are something that shouldn’t concern me, on the grand scheme of things.

Fortunately, after flunking out of my private school with three measly O levels (in English, French and Maths), I continued my studies at my local community college. As it turned out, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

It gave me the much-needed reality check.

First of all, I had to learn typing. Yes, freaking typing. But hey, I met my children’s father in Mrs. Jean Bushby’s typing class, when he wandered in, looking lost, needing someone to help him type something. Of course I volunteered, he was this Adonis-looking male in tiny football shorts and blazing blue eyes and impressive muscles. The rest, as they say, is history.

And then there was a Mr. Jim Crow. I was on the track to study Medicine at university, so Mr. Crow arranged for me to work once a week at St. Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth. He and Sister Ayling at St. Mary’s became my torturers of sorts. I didn’t want to go back, after senile patients expected me to clean their bums and junior doctors treated me like an annoying kid that they were forced to babysit. The nurses, who were supposed to be angels, weren’t too kind with me either: I was told on many occasions that like all doctors, I was as thick as two short planks, just because I couldn’t find things and didn’t know what NG tubes were. I could sense Mr. Crow’s lips twitching under his bushy moustache as I retold my woes to him week after week, but he and Sister Ayling did not let up. The Princess had to relinquish her crown before either of them would endorse my university application.

But much as I hated the weekly come-down-to-earth sessions that lasted for the best part of two years, I must have known subconsciously, that the tough love is representative of the real world: my first job was at St Mary’s Hospital, and I still have my first paycheck framed up.

I was also fortunate that my mother-in-law came into my life when I was still a teen and thus still not too late to be reformed. I was pregnant with her precious son’s child. She was tough on me, in the way that my mother never was. And oh woes, we had to live with my in-laws when we were saving for the deposit for our first home.

“Why are you still in bed?” my mother-in-law would demand.

“I was up late last night studying,” I would bleat. My mum would have soothed my hair and run off to get me anything I wanted. Not so my mother-in-law.

“But you are not sick, are you,” she countered. “There’s nothing wrong with you at all, just lazy.”

I learned one very important thing about myself: that though I was smart and have a bright future, I was not very likeable.

I was arrogant and imperious. I had the entitlement mentality. In later years, I look back and count my blessings that I had come face to face with real life, though it was painful at that time. I am especially grateful that my children have never been anything like me, thanks to their down-to-earth father. My kids had always been ordinary, likeable folks, and this had served them well, and without all the heartache that I had to go through, without my baptism of fire into the real world.

What I have written here relates to something I have been reading about lately, namely the number of unemployed young people.

These unemployed youngsters often have the much-coveted, sometimes expensive degrees, yet employers are not beating a path to their front door trying to hire them. I am not an economist, so I cannot make pronouncements about government policies, the economy and other factors that may cause the situation.

But I want to put this to parents: are you raising employable kids?

Unless you have a business empire for your child to walk straight into immediately after graduation (is a degree that important, by the way), your child needs to get a job.

  1. The likeability factor

First of all, that means he has to be likeable. And I mean likeable to the outside world and not just to you and his grandparents. I read somewhere that the impression is made in the first few seconds after meeting someone: the following minutes and hours only serve to build evidence for or against the first impression.

  1. The art of conversation

Many over-schooled children cannot hold a conversation. Because believe it or not, children need to be taught how to verbally engage with others. And that, I mean ask relevant questions politely, listen to the answers, process the information, form own opinion, and discuss topics eloquently, in context, and in an age-appropriate fashion (a child discussing heavy topics that he or she does not have deep real knowledge of is like listening to a performing monkey parroting rubbish). 

I once asked a seven year old little girl in my yoga class, “What shall we order? A cheeseburger or a toffee ice cream?”

Her reply, “I got to ask my marder first.”

Yet this girl knew – or should I say, could parrot – the most impressive book knowledge ever.

  1. Service with a smile

Does your child have the right attitude? What I have learned, through my own experience, is that in the real world, everyone needs to start from the bottom rung. How does your Little Emperor / Little Princess cope with being an office junior? My mother didn’t do this part of raising me too well – I was so shocked that even after my degree from Oxford, I was expected to do menial tasks for my boss. Whaaat? Moi? Be your bag carrier? Are you serious? But that’s real life. Carry your boss’s bag, sharpen his pencil, bring him coffee and do it with a smile.


  1. It hurts but that’s life

Perhaps most important factor of all, can your child cope with criticisms? You spend his early years telling him that he is wonderful. What happens when someone out there in the world disagrees? You can bet your last dollar that someone out there will, and how then will he react?

I met a boy a few years back, who had a massive meltdown in public (he was about ten at that time) because a mother told him not to touch a display stand at a science exhibition. He screamed and pinched the lady who told him off, and his own mother’s rationale was, “All gifted children have some degree of social problems.” Well, Little Einstein is going to come in for a big shock, because like it or not, he has to be likeable enough, to be able to be social enough, to get a research post at some university, however gifted he is.

  1. Be alive

Is your child inspired? Does he have the fire within that makes him want to make something out of his life? Does his CV show initiative? I think my second son has one of the most interesting CVs for a schoolboy: he built and sold his racing go-kart for profit, he organised illegal boxing matches and he worked as a furniture removal man in a rough part of London during his summer holidays. And somehow, I wasn’t too surprised that it was this child of mine, the least academic one, who won a prestigious sponsorship for his bachelor and masters degrees, and a job immediately after graduation when many of his more academic peers were struggling to find jobs.

I didn’t have the best academic record, yet I was given a full scholarship for my second degree at Oxford. At the interview, I was asked about my terrible grades. My (truthful) answer: it was a beautiful spring that year, and I was sleeping on the beach with my children’s father on most nights, including the nights before my exams.

  1. Show commitment

Start something, stick to it, finish it. Chasing for bigger and brighter things every few months does not look good on the CV. A good way for small children to develop this quality is the humble jigsaw puzzle….and no moving on until the piece is finished.

Note: my four adult children are all gainfully employed: an investment banker, a naval officer, an interior designer and a property developer. I, however, am currently unemployed. I blame my mother for growing me with the belief that all a girl needs to get by is fresh air, sunshine and love.

13 thoughts on “Six Ways of Raising Employable Kids

  1. Ruth

    You seem like a horrible person. You may have been humiliated into useful servility and learned to be thankful for that, but you’re not any nicer.
    Horrible horrible person.


    1. Thank you, Ruth, for your feedback. I have long realised that I am work-in-progress, a long way from being the perfect human being, and am working on it. My writings are my sharing of the journey and I welcome all comments, so thank you. Love, light and blessing to you, Ruth. Jacqueline.


  2. Ian Cormack

    You have woken up to yourself but, alas, you are still blaming your mother. This does no good as she can then blame her mother, and so it goes, til the entire cemetry is wobbling as all earlier generations blame an earlier one. THE BUCK, GOLDILOCKS, STOPS WITH YOU!!!!!!


    1. Thank you for raising this very important point, Ian. All too often, children blame their parents for their shortcomings rather than accept responsibility. Please let me assure you that this is not the case here. I am very grateful to my parents (I am an adopted child), because without them, I would not have had such a blessed life. I have a learning disability early on, but my mum helped me with me studies to enable me to become a surgeon, so I am always indebted to her. Only a few days ago, I wrote about so looking forward to coming home to her after a long journey working abroad.

      In the article, I was merely commenting (rather than criticising) that my beloved mother loved me too much – I was such a horror child! – and I am forever in debt to those who came after my mother to slap me into place.

      I am sure my children, in turn, will have lots of comments/criticisms too, about my parenting, but to me, it is fine, if the baseline love and deep affection is there. After all, we hope to improve, yes? 🙂

      Once again, thank you for bringing this up. Shanti.


      1. Ian Cormack

        Modern parenting will always be imperfect because us people never get things right first time and rarely second time & by then we are finished with it.


  3. Andrew

    Thanks for a wonderful and useful article. I have been using it with Staff and with Senior Students who all need to know about things that matter more than curriculum.
    Personally, many of us find out at some point that we are not very nice and not very likable. Thankyou (and your Mum) for being willing to share your story to help inspire those who might otherwise hide behind a façade. We are all work in progress. It is just a matter of being an active participant rather than a victim.
    None of us are perfect parents and I think for those who will listen, hearing about experiences of others can help us reflect on ourselves as parents and educators.


    1. Thank you, Andrew, for your message. It means a lot to me. I reread this article many times, angst-stricken, because I have received several private hate-mails about it.

      This article raises another point: I think we must facilitate open, honest and heart-led communication between the generations, rather than be closed to reflecting and sharing. Indeed, we are ail work-in-progress, until our dying day. This is how we grow and inch towards self-realisation. Each generation has its challenges, but the idealist in me thinks that love will pave the way.


  4. Don’t I know it, Ian! My children are already telling me how they would do things better! Like have ‘two perfect children’ instead of five that we could not afford to raise 🙂 I just smile and repeat what my mother said, “Wait till you have your own kids, dears.”


    1. Many apologies, Teressa, for giving you the impression that this is a professional website. It is not. It is a mother-of-five’s sharing, a blog of her journey, that’s all. Even the recipes here do not have accurate measurements.

      Thank you for reading.


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