Archives For Generation iY

The Marks of Maturity

September 28, 2012 — 5 Comments

You may have noticed a paradox that exists among students today. Although there are exceptions to the rule, this generation of kids is advanced intellectually, but behind emotionally. They are missing many of the marks of maturity they should possess.

From an intellectual perspective, students today have been exposed to so much more than I was growing up—and far sooner, too. They’ve consumed information on everything from cyberspace to sexual techniques before they graduate from Middle School. Everything is coming at them sooner. Sociology professor Tony Campolo said, “I am convinced we don’t live in a generation of bad kids. We live in a generation of kids who know too much too soon.”


On the other hand, students have been stunted in their emotional maturity. They seem to require more time to actually “grow up” and prepare for the responsibility that comes with adulthood. This is a result of many factors, not the least of which is well-intentioned parents who hover over their kids not allowing them to experience the pain of maturation. It’s like the child who tries to help the new butterfly break out of the cocoon, and realizes later that they have done a disservice to that butterfly. The butterfly is not strong enough to fly once it is free.

There is another reason, however, that teens struggle with maturation. Scientists are gaining new insights into remarkable changes in teenagers’ brains that may explain why the teen years are so hard on young people and their parents. From ages 11-14, kids lose some of the connections between cells in the part of their brain that enables them to think clearly and make good decisions.

Pruning the Brain
What happens is that the brain is pruning itself—going through changes that will allow a young person to move into adult life effectively. “Ineffective or weak brain connections are pruned in much the same way a gardener would prune a tree or bush, giving the plant a desired shape,” says Alison Gopnik, Professor of Child Development at UC Berkley. Adolescents who are experiencing these brain changes can react emotionally, according to Ian Campbell, a neurologist at the U.C. Davis Sleep Research Laboratory. Mood swings, uncooperative and irresponsible attitudes can all be the result of these changes occurring. Sometimes, students can’t explain why they feel the way they do. Their brain is changing from a child brain to an adult brain. Regions that specialize in language, for example, grow rapidly until about age 13 and then stop. The frontal lobes of the brain which are responsible for high level reasoning and decision making aren’t fully mature until the early 20s, according to Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, a neuroscientist at Harvard’s Brain Imaging Center. There’s a portion of time when the child part of the brain has been pruned, but the adult portion is not fully formed. They are “in-between.” They are informed but not prepared.

The bottom line? Students today are consuming information they aren’t completely ready to handle. The adult part of their brain is still forming and isn’t ready to apply all that our society throws at it. Their mind takes it in and files it, but their will and emotions are not prepared to act on it in a healthy way. They can become paralyzed by all the content they consume. They want so much to be able to experience the world they’ve seen on websites or heard on podcasts, but don’t realize they are unprepared for that experience emotionally. They are truly in between a child and an adult. (This is the genius behind movie ratings and viewer discretion advisories on TV). I believe a healthy, mature student is one who has developed intellectually, volitionally, emotionally and spiritually. I also believe there are marks we can look for, as we coach them into maturity.

Signs to Look For
So what are the marks of maturity? We all love it when we see a young person who carries themselves well and shows signs of being mature. They interact with adults in an adult manner. Those kinds of students are downright refreshing. Let me give you a list of what I consider to be the marks of maturity. At Growing Leaders we seek to build these marks in young people, ages 16-24 as we partner with schools. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is a list of characteristics I notice in young people who are unusually mature, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. If you are a parent—this is a good list of qualities to begin developing in your child. If you are a coach, or a teacher or a dean, these are the signs we wish every student possessed when they graduate. For that matter, these are signs I wish every adult modeled for the generation coming behind them.

1. A mature person is able to keep long-term commitments.
One key signal of maturity is the ability to delay gratification. Part of this means a student is able to keep commitments even when they are no longer new or novel. They can commit to continue doing what is right even when they don’t feel like it.

2. A mature person is unshaken by flattery or criticism.
As people mature, they sooner or later understand that nothing is as good as it seems and nothing is as bad as it seems. Mature people can receive compliments or criticism without letting it ruin them or sway them into a distorted view of themselves. They are secure in their identity.

3. A mature person possesses a spirit of humility.
Humility parallels maturity. Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less. Mature people aren’t consumed with drawing attention to themselves. They see how others have contributed to their success and can even sincerely give honor to their Creator who gave them the talent. This is the opposite of arrogance.

4. A mature person’s decisions are based on character not feelings.
Mature people—students or adults—live by values. They have principles that guide their decisions. They are able to progress beyond merely reacting to life’s options, and be proactive as they live their life. Their character is master over their emotions.

5. A mature person expresses gratitude consistently.
I have found the more I mature, the more grateful I am, for both big and little things. Immature children presume they deserve everything good that happens to them. Mature people see the big picture and realize how good they have it, compared to most of the world’s population.

6. A mature person knows how to prioritize others before themselves.
A wise man once said: A mature person is one whose agenda revolves around others, not self. Certainly this can go to an extreme and be unhealthy, but I believe a pathway out of childishness is getting past your own desires and beginning to live to meet the needs of others less fortunate.

7. A mature person seeks wisdom before acting.
Finally, a mature person is teachable. They don’t presume they have all the answers. The wiser they get the more they realize they need more wisdom. They’re not ashamed of seeking counsel from adults (teachers, parents, coaches) or from God, in prayer. Only the wise seek wisdom.

Based on this list, are you displaying the marks of maturity? How about your students?

Click here to download a PDF version of this article.

It seems everyone is talking about the economy today. With the election coming up, this topic will remain in the limelight for months to come. This blog post is about how young people affect the economy. They impact it more than we realize.


photo credit: Iman Mosaad via photopin cc

The Harvard Business Review makes a keen observation about young people. More than 70% of major declines in the proportion of 15-to-24-year-olds in the population have been associated with declines in GDP growth, according to a study of worldwide data from 1960 through 2005 by Diane J. Macunovich of the University of Redlands in California. A boom in the population of young people seems to boost producers’ expectations, and the passing of the bubble causes defaults and bankruptcies, which prompt foreign investors to withdraw funds and speculators to unload the local currency. This appears to have been the pattern in four financial crises since 1980, as well as Japan’s “lost decade,” Macunovich says.

So how does the future look in America? Generation Y is huge. In fact, the kids born in the 1980s and 1990s represent the largest generation in American history; about 80 million strong. (Just a few years ago they passed up the Baby Boomers). However, the generation following them, born since the turn of the century, often referred to as “The Homelanders”, are a much smaller generation.

The reasons for this drop?

  1. The economy is forcing many couples to wait on having a child until they’re prepared financially.
  2. Many 20-somethings are simply waiting to marry or “hook up” having come from parents who divorced.
  3. Many young adults just value a career more than a family at this stage of life and are not becoming parents until later.

While none of us can control the birth rate or the attitude of our nation, we can concentrate on preparing the young people we are in front of everyday. I realize I may sound like a broken record, but we must equip them to think like leaders, to plan wisely, to develop their emotional intelligence, to learn how to work with a team. All of these skills—especially soft skills—will make each one valuable as they navigate the economy they will one day inherit from us.

Let me suggest a wild idea. Perhaps the best contribution you can make to the economy is to prepare a young person to excel in a poor one.

What are you doing to fulfill this?

One of the crying needs of our day is young leader development to equip our youth to lead the way into the future.  Certainly we must teach them to be followers first—but there is a great need for leadership development as they graduate and enter their careers.

So what is at the root of true young leader development?

It is the shift of responsibility.

From one generation to the next.

Taking place over time.

I believe training doesn’t really take effect until there is a transfer of responsibility (click to tweet). We can teach all day, show videos, play instructive games and do assessments, but until we actually give them responsibility—we have not really built a leader.

young leader development

photo credit: Sam Beebe, Ecotrust via photo pin cc

Continue Reading…

In the last episode of the Growing Leaders Podcast, we discussed communicating with the next generation. In today’s episode, we are looking at the relationship between teens and technology. Continue Reading…


Very often, we find ourselves leading students (perhaps our own kids!) and finding ourselves in new territory. Perhaps our parents never modeled healthy leadership for us when we were growing up, and now we’re emulating whatever leadership style we experienced as kids. Quite frequently, I see teachers and parents feeling like they’re kids’ lifestyles are spinning out of control. The endless technology, the social connections that aren’t positive, the content they’re exposed to 24/7, all lead us to want to impose some rules on them. After all, we know what’s best for them. We default to seizing control.

Consider, however, if this is the best way to reach your desired outcome.


photo credit: martinak15 via photo pin cc

Don’t think IMPOSE, think EXPOSE.

Kids have been given options since they were pre-schoolers. They’ve been able to choose what food they want to eat, what game they wish to play, where they want to go on vacation, what sport they want to play this fall, you name it. So, when adults become scared their kid is falling behind, we tend to impose a rule or a behavior on them. While mandatory conduct is part of life, it carries with it some negative baggage. When students feel forced to do something, they usually don’t take ownership of it; it’s your idea not theirs. Outcomes are almost always diminished. We may have forced them to do something on the outside, but inside they rebelled.  Why not think “expose” instead of impose. Show them something new. Give them an opportunity they can’t pass up. Make it enticing, as if they’re going to miss out on something huge if they pass on it. It then becomes their idea. Instead of pushing, you’re pulling. President Dwight Eisenhower would often use a string to explain how to best lead people. If a string is lying straight on a table, pushing it forward doesn’t work very well. Pulling the string is the best way to move it.

Immediate Take-Aways?

  1. Don’t make your leadership training mandatory. Make it exclusive.
  2. Don’t water down your leadership training. Make it excellent.
  3. Don’t force students to participate, make it enticing.

A year ago, I asked my son to join me on a trip. In fact, I consistently invited him on several trips. When he asked where I was going, the destination never struck his fancy. He declined. I knew those trips would be a great experience, but I didn’t want to force things. So he stayed home. When I returned from my trips, I specifically shared all the “cool” things that happened. Then, left it alone. I didn’t say “I told you so.” Recently, I mentioned I was going on another trip and was taking a few students with me. I didn’t invite my son. (I wasn’t playing games with him, but it was a trip I wasn’t sure he’d enjoy.) He hinted, however, that he may want to go with me on a future trip. I said I was open. Last month, as we talked about what he was up to recently, I mentioned I was travelling to a city I’d invited him to earlier. This time, he spoke up and asked if he could go. He actually wanted to join me.

It was his idea, but I was leading him.

What are some create ways to apply this principle? Leave a comment below.