Competency-Specific Guidance for Families


Overview: Teaching Your Teen the Skills That Matter


Why do some high school graduates do well in college or the workplace while others do not? As families, how can we help our teens succeed? Education and business leaders are saying that intrapersonal (internal), interpersonal (social) and cognitive (academic) skills are all equally important for success in school and in life. To experience success, our teens need to develop all three types of these skills or competencies.

We want our children to be successful. Listen as Dr. Amy Gaumer Erickson, Associate Research Professor at the University of Kansas, discusses how we can help our children become career equipped, socially and emotionally engaged, lifelong learners.

The 26 competencies on the wheel are skills people use daily to reach their goals, complete tasks, and interact with each other. Which competencies have been most important for you? It’s likely that your use of these skills has led to success at work and in your personal relationships.

Dr. Gaumer Erickson further explains the College and Career Competency Framework, how the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cognitive competencies can be taught, and why we would want our children to acquire these skills.

As a parent, you may be wondering how to support social-emotional learning (SEL) at home. These six competencies provide a good place to start.

To develop college and career competencies, teens need to practice these skills at home. The following example strategies can be practiced at home to develop college and career competencies in your teen:

1.  Attach a copy of the competency wheel to your fridge, and as you see your teen demonstrate an intra or interpersonal competency, give positive feedback by saying something like, “all the concepts on this wheel are skills that you will use in college or in a career—you just demonstrated this competency!” Give specific examples about how your teen’s behavior illustrated the competency.

2. Ask your teen to predict his or her grade on several exams. Then discuss with your teen the actual grade vs the predicted grade. Discuss why the prediction was successful or not successful. If your teen predicts a bad grade (such as “I’ll be lucky if I get a C on…”), ask why he or she thinks that. For an upcoming project or test, ask your teen what success would look like. This helps build self-awareness and self-efficacy (the belief in your ability to achieve goals and meet expectations).

3. When your teen needs your help with issues like a broken phone, car repair, or navigating a purchase, let him or her take the lead and attempt to solve issues with as little support from you as possible. Encourage your teen to research issues online, ask for help, use active listening skills, and express questions and concerns throughout the process. Provide feedback to your teen on observed strengths and let him or her make mistakes as he or she attempts to solve the issue. This builds problem solving and assertiveness.


More strategies are outlined in these resources:

Parent Resources

10 Ways to Prepare Your Teens for College & Work:  A Guide for Families                            PDF: English        PDF: Español

10 Ways to Build Interpersonal Competencies with Your Teen: A Guide for Families        PDF: English        PDF: Español

10 Ways to Build Intrapersonal Competencies with Your Teen: A Guide for Families        PDF: English        PDF: Español