Archives For Generation iY


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Stop and think. Did you know many of the great achievements throughout history in the fields of art, culture, science and technology have been by teenagers? This may be because they’re able to see things in new and innovative ways, since their thinking isn’t bound by the status quo. It’s often due to a God-given talent surfacing at an early age, and the natural open-mindedness of youth before they experience attempts to indoctrinate them towards certain worldviews. Biologically the rate of brain development, according to some IQ studies, peak in smart individuals just prior to their teenage years. For instance, Mozart composed his first symphony when he was just six years old. Chopin played his first public piano performance at eight. But this is just the beginning. Did you know…

* At twelve years old…Blaise Pascal secretly worked out the first twenty-three propositions of Euclid by himself?

* At thirteen, Anne Frank began writing her diary, later published as “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.”

* At fourteen, Nadia Comaneci “achieved in her sport what no Olympian, male or female, ever had before: perfection.”

* At just fifteen, Louis Braille invented the Braille reading system for the blind.

* At sixteen, Franz Schubert wrote his First Symphony; having already composed songs, chamber pieces etc.

* At a mere eighteen, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein (The Modern Prometheus), later published when she was 21.

* And at only nineteen, Babe Ruth began playing for the Boston Red Sox, in what would become the greatest baseball career in history.

Don’t’ you dare sell kids short. In fact, I think we expect far too little of them today. Allowing them to get lost on Facebook chats, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets…their potential lies dormant. And we often say—“Ah, they’re just kids.”

Perhaps they are minors, but through history, young people have shown the world how much they are capable of doing. A hundred years ago, four year-olds were doing age appropriate chores around the house; by fifteen, they were working the farm; by seventeen, they were leading armies, and by nineteen many were married. I am not suggesting we must return to this pattern, but simply that teens are capable of this kind of responsibility and authority.

But they’ll never do it today…unless we expect it and empower them to do it. Please, don’t sell our kids short.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Last month, the New York Times reported that Harvard University has “forced dozens of students to leave in its largest cheating scandal in memory, the university made clear in summing up the affair on Friday, but it would not address assertions that the blame rested partly with a professor and his teaching assistants.”

Harvard didn’t say how many students were disciplined for cheating on a take-home final exam given last May in a government class, but the university’s statements indicated that the number forced out was around 70. “The class had 279 students, and Harvard administrators reported that “nearly half” were suspected of cheating and would have their cases reviewed by the Administrative Board. “On Friday, a Harvard dean, Michael D. Smith, wrote in a letter to faculty members and students that, of those cases, ‘somewhat more than half’ had resulted in a student’s being required to withdraw,” according to the NYT.


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Wow. Is this some kind of pattern or an isolated event? 

Studies of student behavior and attitudes show that a majority of students violate standards of academic integrity to some degree, and that high achievers are just as likely to do it as others. Moreover, there is evidence that the problem has worsened over the last few decades. Nationwide, educators report an increase in student cheating on tests, plagiarism on papers and copying answers from other students. When challenged about these things, students often shrug their shoulders, saying they do what they have to do to get by.  This leads me to suggest three lessons we are learning from students today:

1. Pragmatism is replacing principles.

When I was growing up, even the worst offender admitted that cheating was wrong. They just did it anyway. Today, students are explaining that it isn’t really cheating, when they have to do it to reach their goal. Where do they get this idea? Just look at the adults. Parents push them to make the grade, make the team, make the class to get into college. So, they become pragmatic. Whatever it takes to get by. Even Lance Armstrong, in his interview with Oprah Winfrey said he wasn’t convinced that what he did was wrong, when he took Performance Enhancing Drugs. Everyone’s doing it. To possess morals is now quite rare in students at many higher ed institutions.

2. Individualism is replacing sacrifice.

It used to be, people saw themselves as a part of something much larger. They played a unique part, but it was not about them. It was about a team or a cause. This drove people to make sacrifices for their country, their team or their cause. Dr. Jeanne Twenge reports that narcissism is on the rise, 30% higher than when I was a kid. And when students experience narcissism, they don’t see themselves as part of something more important. They, themselves, are the focus. Listen to the music on the radio today and you’ll see a huge bump in self-absorption in the lyrics. It’s about me. I am awesome. I am special. I am entitled. Why should I make a sacrifice or follow someone else’s morals? Arrogance is, in fact, replacing humility.

3. The pursuit of success is replacing the development of values.

In many cheating cases, students admit that adults (i.e. parents) have pushed them to become all they can be, but never gave them boundaries in that pursuit. In other words, do whatever you have to do to achieve, get ahead and beat out the competition. Whenever a vision is developed before values are clarified, the person often will compromise their values right and left, in the name of accomplishing the vision. Success, even if you cheat to get it, is a priority over reputation or integrity.

Let me ask you: how do you ignite values and moral principles in your students? Leave a comment.



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There has been a slow shift going on over the last forty years in how we lead our young people in America. I actually think I am seeing this shift happening all over the world. Adults view the educating and raising of children differently, and it’s affected our work with young kids as well as young adults.


We used to pride ourselves on giving kids whatever they needed.

Now, parents pride themselves on giving kids whatever they want.


We used to offer school rewards when our students put out excellent effort.

Now we reward everyone, because we don’t want anyone left out.


We used to say to kids: “You can do whatever you want; go figure it out.”

Now we say: “You can do whatever you want, and I will make sure it happens.”


We used to give kids an allowance for doing chores around the house.

Today, we give kids money regardless of any contribution they make.


We used to allow kids substantial playtime outside to exercise and make up games.

Now, we structure their days with practices and playtime is in front of a screen.


We used to let our kids fail and lose, but would help them learn lessons from it.

Today, we refuse to let our kids fail. We don’t want to damage their self-esteem.


We used to see nearly every teen work at a job; it was the only way they’d have money.

Today, most teens don’t work yet somehow find the money for items they want.


We used to affirm young people for outstanding behavior, performance or character.

Today, we praise young people for effortless and even basic behavior.


We used to learn about values and how life works over dinner with our family.

Today, kids may learn about life, values, and even sex from school, since there’s no time for dinner together at home.


Yesterday, when a student got in trouble in school, they also got in trouble when they returned home. Parents took sides with the school rules.

Today, when a student gets in trouble in school, the parent sides with their child and the teacher or administrator now gets in trouble.


This may just explain much of what we see in our culture today.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

In the past I have blogged about the idea that good things can come from bad situations, when those situations force us to do something good we normally wouldn’t do. Whether it’s laziness or lack of motivation, our intentions are better than our actions. Today, we see millions of Americans getting rid of credit card debt and saving money because of the failing economy. This is obviously something we should have been doing all along—but were forced to once we had no credit left.


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Motivation is a funny thing. It is best when it comes from within—when we find a purpose to fulfill. However, most of us are motivated when there’s a need to meet. I find I am most strongly motivated when the pressure of necessity raises its ugly head. I am writing a book right now, and I am discovering once again that “deadlines are lifelines.”  When conditions become unbearable or dissatisfying—that’s when leaders step forward and do something. That’s when people discover what’s inside of them.

Charles Darrow was out of work and almost bankrupt during the Great Depression when he and his wife began to dream about what they would do if they had a million dollars. Every night they would discipline themselves to talk about the wealth they would accrue one day. Their regular little conversation turned into a game—with a board, dice, hotels and cards—a game you likely own today: the game of Monopoly. By the way, Parker Brothers bought the game from him in 1935 for a million dollars.

It was also during the Depression that Kirk Christiansen had some time on his hands and came up with his own little diversion. He was a carpenter who made ladders, but needed some extra work and cash. One day, he noticed he had lots of little pieces of wood left over once a ladder was built. He loved kids and started to let kids play with those little pieces of wood to see if there was anything marketable he could discover. It soon became clear they loved to build things with them. Those wood chips became Legos, a Danish hybrid for the words “leg godt” meaning “play well.”

During those same hard times, Alfred Butts was unemployed. Every day he’d read the New York Times, looking for work. As he did this, he realized how much he loved words—reading them, writing them and creating them. Since he had all kinds of time on his hands, he began to explore creating a game out of words. He succeeded and it put him back to work, producing the game called: Scrabble.

Do you see the common thread in the stories of Charles, Kirk and Alfred? It was the very problem they faced that ushered them into success.

I have a question for you. What problem do you face today that may become the very vehicle that enables you to succeed?  With the right perspective, a poor economy, unemployment, or boredom with far too much time on your hands could become your best friend. You just have to gain perspective, and take advantage of your situation. Your best leadership gifts may be summoned by hard times. You may just find your sweet spot when you are forced to do so.

I remember hearing a story about a frog who was hopping along a road when he fell into a large hole. He tried and tried to hop out, but was unable. As his friends came by, the frog beckoned them to go get help. Each of them ran for help, but upon their return they saw the frog hopping along the road again. He was obviously free from the confinement of the hole. When they reminded him that he couldn’t get out, he said: “Oh, you are right. I couldn’t get out. But then I heard a huge truck approaching and I realized…I had to.”

Here’s to your best gifts emerging as you face that huge truck coming at you.

What problems have you turned into opportunities? Leave a comment.

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Interested in growing leaders who solve problems on your campus, in your company or in your church? Check out A Manifesto for Growing Leaders on Your Campus.


Over the last several months, I have spoken to more parents, teachers and coaches than I have students. It seems adults are still trying to figure out this digital generation of kids. I get asked great questions in these events that I am blogging about this week.

One question comes up repeatedly—and I want to write about it here.


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Question: How can my son or daughter live with the paradoxes in their life? One minute, they seem so confident, almost cocky, and the next, they seem anxious and even fearful. I realize this can be due to the circumstances at the moment—but I see this far too often. Can you explain it?

Answer: Sometimes I see kids project a “false confidence” as a facade. It covers their insecurity. There is actually a phenomenon occurring in adolescents today that psychologists refer to as: “high arrogance, low self-esteem.” It’s common among Generation iY who grew up feeling so confident with the world at their fingertips, discovering new sites on-line, texting and tweeting, receiving parent’s affirmation, perusing data portals.

It all sounds good, but it can create an arrogant attitude in a student as if they know more than parents and teachers. (In some cases, they actually do).  However, in time, the student somehow intuitively or sub-consciously recognizes that their knowledge is hollow. Except in rare cases, it has only entertained them but not produced anything real. This can lead to quiet suspicions that they may not have what it takes to be an adult. At times they live with a quiet worry that they don’t even have what it takes in college or with friends.

In one week’s time, I met with two individuals, both parents of teenagers. The first was a father of a seventeen-year old daughter. She had been a stellar example of everything a dad would want in a child: she made A’s, she was a cheerleader, she had lots of friends, and she’d launched a campus club that recycled aluminum cans. Something was wrong, however, according to her father. His daughter became depressed. Her confidence took on a mean-spirit. After seeing a counselor, all three concluded it was the high arrogance, low self-esteem syndrome.

The second person I met was a mother of a freshman in college. Her boy was a typical computer geek, who loved everything technology had to offer. He was smart, and somehow figured out how to “win” at anything he tried to do. But he, too, was a victim of this same condition. He is acutely self-aware and told his mom he felt it was the confidence he’d experienced on-line with computers, but the eerie, nagging feeling that was not was good enough “off line.” He felt the need to project his self-worth. To brag. To over-compensate in whatever activity he set out to do. When I met with him, he and I agreed the best way to describe his situation was: high arrogance, low self-esteem.

This is why parents and teachers must be models of emotional and spiritual health, as we lead them. When we are emotionally secure, we demonstrate humility and show no need to project our worth. Certainly, teens are still figuring out who they are and may do bizarre things as they pursue that discovery. Help them explore but also help them be authentic. The word authentic comes from the same root as: to author. It means to write your own story, not copy someone else. We must help remove the need for them to be anything but their true selves, with the normal hesitations and anxiousness that comes with adolescence.

What do you think about this issue? Leave a comment.





For creative solutions to solve this problem, pick up your copy of  Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future.