Archives For Parenting

Two View Points to Avoid

February 27, 2014 — 1 Comment

Much has been written about the self-absorption of high school and college students today. Narcissism and self-esteem is on the rise, with 80 percent of middle-school students scoring higher in self-esteem in 2006 than the average middle-school student in 1988, according to one study (Review of General Psychology, Vol. 14, No. 3). Among college students, subclinical levels of narcissism have steadily risen since the 1970s, other studies suggest. And though the diagnosis may be dropped from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (see Narcissism and the DSM), young people are much more likely than older adults to have ever experienced Narcissistic Personality Disorder, according to a large-scale epidemiological study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (Vol. 67, No. 7).

 Full length of young men and women holding cellphone

“You can look at individual scores of narcissism, you can look at data on lifetime prevalence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you can look at related cultural trends, and they all point to one thing,” says W. Keith Campbell, PhD, head of the University of Georgia psychology department. “Narcissism is on the rise.”

Monitor writer Sadie Dingfelder challenges us: Imagine a country where everyone acts like a reality show contestant — obsessed with power, status and appearance, and is comfortable manipulating others for their personal gain. “I’m here to win, not make friends,” would be the national motto.

“This society would have high crime rates — white collar and violent — as people take whatever they feel entitled to,” says Christopher Barry, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Southern Mississippi and lead editor of “Narcissism and Machiavellianism in Youth” (APA, 2010). Cosmetic surgery would be routine, materialism rampant, and everyone would seek fame or notoriety, he adds. It would also be a place with high rates of anxiety and depression. That’s because narcissists — people with an inflated sense of their importance and abilities — have trouble keeping friends, even though they are good at making them, Barry’s found.

“A narcissistic society would be a deeply lonely place,” Barry says. And according to some researchers, that is precisely where America is heading.

Perspectives We Must Avoid

If there’s even a kernel of truth in this research, what can adults do? This seems to be the question on the minds of faculty, coaches, youth workers and employers across the U.S. Is contemporary culture destined to move this direction?

I don’t think so—but let me offer two perspectives that won’t help:

1. “The Sky if Falling!” – Do you remember Chicken Little? She ran all over town screaming, “The sky is falling” until no one listened to her anymore. She was so plagued with fear that listeners didn’t know what to do with her. So they avoided her. When we assume a fear-based attitude—believing kids today are worse than ever and have no hope to grow up, work hard and see the big picture—they won’t. Those kids will live up (or down) to our expectations. Fear is contagious.

2. “Kids will be kids!” – This is the other extreme, where adults believe all kids are just into themselves; in fact, we were into ourselves when we were adolescents. Sadly, this assumption fosters complacency in us, believing somehow these kids will mature in the end, with or without our help. That things will be fine no matter what we do. I just don’t believe that, in light of our world of portable devices, pop culture and poor parenting in the home. Complacency is contagious.

I relay some disconcerting realities in my books Generation iY—Our Last Chance to Save Their Future and Artificial Maturity—Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults. But in both of them, I clearly communicate I don’t believe we are destined for a dismal future with our kids moving back home after college, incurring debt, and refusing to grow up. I have hope. However, it will only happen if we adults re-think the way we lead, teach, coach, parent and manage this young generation. In the very least:

  • We must be pro-active, not just reactive to their challenges.
  • We must focus on relationship, not just results during the process.
  • We must be about preparing, not jut protecting them from a tough world.

May I share a healthy perspective with you?

You are not leading or teaching a child. You are leading a future adult. Everything you do and say will either serve to prepare them or prevent them from being ready. The more you maintain that focus, the better choices you’ll make as a mentor.

Artificial Maturity

We are at the end of the Sochi Olympics, and as you’ve probably witnessed, there have been an incredible assortment of stories and achievements that have made these games special. One specific story from this past week reminds me of a leadership skill we can instill in students called Small Sprockets.

Mikaela Shiffrin was once like any other kid who liked to ski. She is that no longer. The girl who once lived in Vermont  prepared herself to compete in the Sochi Olympics, and she sought perfection like few other athletes do.


Let me explain.

First, she’s watched other skiers since childhood—not mindlessly, as she was tugged up the cable to the top of the mountain, but carefully, intentionally looking for what she could learn from them regarding mistakes to avoid or skills to replicate. She determined early on that she would always be a growing, lifelong learner.

Second, she has a camera on herself when she skis so she can constantly watch her changes and growth. Almost sadistically, she focuses on what she’s done wrong so she can push to improve. She has a harsh eye when it comes to herself. Kids often want affirmation or reinforcement; Mikaela has always craved criticism. She wants to see her ugliest slide, jump or turn. When she loses, she scrambles to see how it happened and learn.

Third, she works to always be ready by staying current in her strength and conditioning. This has enabled her to be the youngest American slalom world champion ever, as well as the winner of seven World Cup races at age 18. She embraces not just the adrenaline rush of competing or winning, but the process, the stuff no one else sees. That’s her differentiator: she loves the process. The grind doesn’t grind her down—it energizes her. She adores the daily journey. Johann Wolfgang Goethe once said, “Talent develops in quiet places, character in the full current of human life.”

“That is what makes her able to sleep at night,” her mother Eileen says.

“She’s working toward mastery,” said Kirk Dwyer, the headmaster at Burke Academy. “You recognize that perfection is never attainable. You could work toward that, but if you achieved it, you’d probably switch and do something else.

To summarize what makes her so unique as a competitor, leader and person:

  1. She loves the process
  2. She embraces criticism
  3. She’s into her sport, not herself

The Small Sprocket

One of our Habitudes is called, “The Small Sprocket.” (Habitudes are images that form leadership habits and attitudes.) Consider a small sprocket. This tiny gear must spin many times against a big one in order to get it to spin just once. If the big sprocket is a hundred times bigger than the small one, that little gear must turn a hundred times to get the larger one to revolve just once.


Leaders know—this goes with the territory. They’re like small sprockets and must turn and turn many more times than their teams to do. Great leaders love the process, just like Mikaela. They also recognize the good news, too. Once you’ve rotated enough times, momentum becomes your best friend. The small sprocket actually creates momentum in the big gear and now can receive energy back.

Reflect and Respond

In the world of nature, we can learn a lot about the small sprocket principle from another small creature, the ant. Their highly organized colonies often consist of millions of individual ants, yet they appear to operate as a single entity. They work in teams to move extremely heavy things. They gather food during harvest and store it until the winter months. Without an administrator, they perform specific jobs as workers, soldiers, drones and queens. Yet, when a catastrophe occurs, the ants quickly adapt their duties to overcome the problem. Here are some questions to consider:


Summarize the characteristics that enable the ant to succeed.


Contrast the ant’s initiative and perseverance with our own human laziness. Why do we often fail to persevere? What prevents our “spinning?”



Evaluate yourself on the following qualities that we find in an ant’s work ethic.

1. Integrity: The ant doesn’t need supervision. It works out of pure instinct.


Have you been in a program that was stagnant? What kept it from making progress?



2. Initiative: The ant starts to gather food without being pushed or incentivized.


In your activities, do you ever feel alone in doing all the work? How do you respond?



3. Industry: The ant has a spirit of industry. It works and works until the job is done.


How do you stay inspired when you don’t see results nor feel any gratification?



Choose a cause you believe needs to be promoted on your campus or in your organization. Determine to take six months and actively promote this cause. Choose two or three actions you can take that would strategically help people understand and support the cause. Then—do them. Spin like crazy. Evaluate at the end of six months. Do you see any improvement? Will it take more time?



Mom and Dad…on the Job?

February 24, 2014 — 11 Comments

By now, most of us have heard stories of a parent who’s accompanied Junior to the job interview. If not, it’s usually a sad story of a mom or dad who can’t let go and won’t let their child grow up. What’s more, some parents visit their adult-child at work and even request pay-raises for them. The apron strings remain tied tight. With an increasing number of parents who join their son or daughter on employment interviews, some companies are banning such a practice.

Other organizations, however, have decided to go with the flow. When in Rome…


The fact is, parents today tend to engage with a helicopter-style strategy, and it often extends into their children’s careers. Some companies are now questioning how much they want to fight it. As I mentioned above, while some push back on this, other firms have begun embracing parental involvement and using it to attract and retain talent, as well as boost employee morale. Northwestern Mutual does everything it can to accommodate the parents of college-aged interns, including regularly inviting them to the office for open houses, according to Michael Van Grinsven, Field-Growth and Development Director at the Milwaukee-based financial firm. Some managers notify parents when interns achieve their sales goals, and let parents come along to interviews and hear details of job offers.

I suppose it stems from our society, which has come to accept the fact that kids really aren’t grown up until their mid-twenties (and sometimes later). The vast majority of college students are “boomerang” kids who move back home after school. Health insurance for children now extends until age 26. It seems we’ve all gotten used to it.

But should we?

The companies who’ve allowed parental involvement believe they may be finding it has enhanced community and productivity. That sounds good to me. Yet, one has to wonder, is it at the expense of the young employee learning to be autonomous and responsible?  Are we trading empowerment for engagement? Here is the way I see parent involvement play out in a young team member’s job:

1. Happy parent and employee 1. Less autonomous employee
2. Highly engaged employee 2. Strings attached with the parent
3. Increased productivity 3. Potential irresponsibility
4. Less stress for the employee 4. Less strength in the employee
5. Happier young team member? 5. Healthier young team member?

Let’s have a conversation. Have you seen this scenario? Is it better or worse to invite parental involvement with a young employee?

Looking to develop career-ready students? Check out

Habitudes: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes


A New York based firm met with a group of recent college graduates to talk about their careers. During the conversation, the potential employer asked the grads this question: What’s the one word HR execs use more than any other to describe the mindset of your generation? It begins with an “E.” Do you know what that word is?

The young twenty-somethings began thinking out loud. Some said Entrepreneurial. Others thought it was Energetic, while others felt it was Exciting or Entertaining.

None of the candidates guessed the correct answer: Entitled.

stealing ambition

Some time ago, blogger Kristen Welch posted a simple and clear list of signs that young people are struggling with a sense of entitlement. Whether you’re a teacher, a coach, a parent, an administrator, a youth worker or an employer, these are signals you’ll want to keep your antennas up to spot:

1. I want it now. Kids are impatient, and who can blame them? We live in a drive-thru culture and, instant gratification is, well, instant. Often, we find ourselves living in fear of saying no because our children are used to getting what they want.

2. I don’t want to work for it. Why work when it can be given to you? It fosters a cycle of laziness and poor work ethic when we constantly give to our children without requiring any work. We need to create entry points starting at a young age for our children to contribute to household chores and jobs.

3. I don’t have to clean up my mess. We battle this one often. I’m learning to choose my wars. But I believe this is also responsible living. If you make a mess, you clean it up.

4. I want it because everyone else has it. My 7 year old has asked for an “Elf on the Shelf” every day this week. Why? Because she feels left out that many of her friends have one. And that’s awesome for them, but I don’t want that to be the focus of our season, and I honestly don’t have time or energy to create things for the stuffed animal to do. The bottom line for us: it’s okay for you not to have what everyone else has. I asked my daughter, “If everyone had a swimming pool, would you want one too?” She said yes. Clearly, we are working on this one.

5. I expect you to fix all my problems. I love to help my kids out. But there’s a fine line between helping and aiding bad behavior. If my child forgets their lunch everyday, yet I bring it to them anyway, there’s really not a reason for them to ever be responsible. My kids expected us to give them money for a gift for us. Instead, I found it the perfect chance to teach them about hard work and let them solve their own dilemma.

Talk to me. What other signs would you add to this list? What are you doing to curb a sense of entitlement in the students you lead?

Justin_SuaRecently I had a great conversation with Justin Su’a, Head of Mental Conditioning at IMG Academy. We discussed the current state of student-athletes and ways we can help them (as well as any student) become mentally tough. Through many conversations with athletic personnel like Justin, I am seeing the same trends over and over concerning student-athletes. I hope you enjoy this discussion as much as I did.


Click Here to Listen

Here are a few notes from our discussion…

How has culture affected the “mental toughness” of young people of this generation?

Mental toughness is a phrase so many people use. When I think about it, it’s your ability to remain in control in any and every circumstance. It’s also your ability to push through things that may be boring. The culture plays a tremendous role in it. It’s interesting to see how this plays out. Young athletes want instant gratification. They want everything to happen now. We need to teach them to focus on the process, and results will follow.

It seems like resilience is diminishing in kids. Talk about the importance of resilience and what we’ll have to do to re-cultivate it.

A quote that I love to share is from Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” At the first sign of adversity, everything’s out the window. You’ll always revert to your dominant habits under pressure. One thing I think we can do to help these youngsters is having them frame their plan beforehand. Young athletes often judge incorrectly if left to judge by themselves. Helping them understand judging correctly will help their resiliency.

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

Walk us through your 5 strategies to help kids become mentally tough.

  1. Coach-ability. Being able to be coachable. Praise their effort and be specific with feedback.
  2. “How do I create the environment for my athletes to motivate themselves?” There are three Cs that we follow: competence, control and camaraderie. Let your students feel like they’re progressing at a task. The less control a student feels they have, the more negative they’ll be. Combine these two things with team building and friendships within the team, and this is a recipe for success.
  3. Providing the right frame. A coach can help their athletes focus on “getting better” rather than being “good.”
  4. Teach kids how to fail. Adaptability is huge. Kids should know they don’t need their ‘A’ game to succeed. Teach them to expect the best, but plan for the worst.
  5. Help them find the right attitude. Pessimism never breeds peak performance.

What difference do you see between Olympic athletes and novice athletes?

Their ability to deal with failure, hands down, and their ability to refocus after being distracted. They’re great at controlling themselves when they fail. They keep themselves motivated and focused always.

Check out Growing Leaders. If you’re new to the podcast or blog, visit our website to learn more about the resources Growing Leaders offers to equip those who lead the next generation.

What topic would you like for us to address on the next episode of the Growing Leaders Podcast? Leave a comment.


HabitudesForAthletesWant to prepare athletes for excellence in sports and life? Check out Habitudes for Athletes.