Archives For Parenting

Generation iY

I know, I know. One minute you think you’ve figure out this new generation of kids and the next, you feel you’re on a learning curve again. I get to spend a lot of time with university students these days and I’m amazed at one thing. The world they live in has produced a generational mindset—a shared paradigm—if you will.

Need a crash course in understanding this generation? Just look at the world the adults have created for them and you begin to get it. Let me summarize it in eight short phrases. I bounced this little set of phrases off of students and they said: “That’s me!” If you are from Generation iY (born since 1990) or the Touch Screen Generation (the kids born after 2000) …see what you think of this summary.

1. Hear me out.

These young adults have had a say in how things go since they were five. They expect to express themselves, to upload, vote, blog or update and they believe they’ll be heard.

2. Keep it real.

The only thing worse than being un-cool is being unreal. They demand authenticity. Anything that smells “plastic” is a turn-off. They value genuine people and leaders.

3. Let’s have fun.

They believe work and fun can be combined; they don’t want to separate the two. In fact, they may stop working midday to have fun and work again at midnight. It’s a continuum.

4. My way now.

They’ve not heard the word “no” very often growing up. As a student or new employee, they expect to get their way and don’t see why adults can’t understand their perspective.

5. Make it count.

They want to do things that matter. Meaning is as important as money at work. They don’t think small. They like projects that are very important and almost impossible.

6. Let me know.

They’re used to constant feedback. They got trophies on teams just for showing up. They got lots of kudos from parents for years and today want it instantly from their leaders.

7. Plug me in.

You already know this. They’re a connected generation. They can’t imagine a day without constant connection with friends. Technology is an appendage of their bodies.

8. Just do it.

Words that describe their world are immediacy and convenience. They’re not prone to waste a lot of time with committee red tape or protocol. Stuff should happen fast.

Your thoughts?



To learn more about generational mindsets, pick up your copy of “Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future”







tornado relief

Helping Kids Respond to the Oklahoma Tragedy

I was on the phone soon after I heard the news of the Oklahoma tornado that swept through Moore and the surrounding areas of Oklahoma City on Monday. I texted and called friends to make sure they were alright and to see what I could do to help. I wasn’t alone. Thousands have converged on the area to help local residents sift through the aftermath of the tornado and begin rebuilding.

If you’re a parent, teacher, coach or youth worker—you’ve likely had a conversation already with your kids about this devastating tornado. Many are now processing it with students and responding to the need. This is the spirit of so many Americans.

But just like after 9-11 or other disasters, many adults aren’t sure how to have a conversation about it with young people. So, they avoid it altogether. I believe we must understand how to not only talk about events like this, but to transform them into “teachable moments.” I think there’s a way adults can help students debrief what happened in a practical yet heartfelt manner; in a way that includes both wisdom and empathy and that turns an “evil” into a “good.” Here are some thoughts:

1. Use this disaster to build empathy.

Expose kids to the aftermath. Enable them to step into the shoes of the victims when it’s appropriate. Remember, so much of their world is virtual or video. This is a real event, with real consequences. Fortunately, most people survived it, but dozens did not. Talk, reflect and pray for the people who were affected.

2. Use this disaster to establish expectations.

This tornado is one more reminder that bad things can happen to good people. In a world where children often are sheltered from hardship or adversity, allow this calamity to sink in and serve as a reality check. Talk about life’s difficulties. Remind them that tough times don’t last but tough people do.

3. Use this disaster to cultivate problem-solving skills.

If your students are old enough, talk about the first-responders and celebrate how quickly they acted in response to the devastation. Then, pose the question: if you were in charge of cleaning up or rebuilding—what steps would you take. Kids who learn to solve problems and serve people become valuable adults.

4. Use this disaster to develop a heart for service.

Don’t just talk, and don’t just pray—do something more. Get involved with your young people, collecting canned food, raising money or even traveling to the area if possible and serving alongside others to help rebuild the area. There is nothing like making sacrifices for others in need that matures a student quickly.

Tell me your thoughts? What else have you or someone you know done in response to the tornado that was redemptive?




Yesterday, I had the opportunity to share with the Huffington Post community the following thoughts. I wanted to share them with you as well…

Everyone agrees that it’s a crime to neglect a child. That’s a no brainer. What we’ve failed to see for two decades is that over-parenting — not under-parenting — can do even more harm.

Psychologists have found that a kid without an attentive parent can be emotionally damaged — but soon discover they must find a way to fend for themselves. Children from over-parented homes can just plain fail to develop at all.

The Bully Issue

Dieter Wolke, Ph.D, Professor of Developmental Psychology at The University of Warwick Medical School in the UK, and lead author of this study, gives a practical example of how this plays out: “Overprotection by parents can increase the risk a child will be bullied.” According to the study published last week in Child Abuse & Neglect, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 70 studies on more than 200,000 children. “Since parental support and supervision are important aspects to prevent bullying, the researchers were particularly surprised to find that over-protective parenting can have adverse effects on children. Parents who try too hard to buffer their children from harm, they assessed, can actually hurt them.”

The goal of parenting, Dr. Wolke suggests, is to make children competent, self-regulating, and effective people. “Children need to deal with various forms of stress in mild doses — like an inoculation that helps the body to fight a real infection by having built antibodies. Similarly, children do need to experience some conflict to learn how to deal with larger problems, such as bullying.”

Five Action Steps

So, what’s the answer? Either extreme — abandonment or abundance — is wrong. So how do we nurture young people, but not over-do it? The parents and teachers I know who equip students to handle bullying and other difficulties on campus practice the following action steps:

1. Teach your kids problem solving skills.

Instead of conditioning our young people to “depend on parents” to fix what’s wrong, why not cultivate a “problem-solving bias” in them, to understand and resolve their problems — whether it’s a low test score, a bully on the bus, or a deadline they can’t meet. This builds a can-do attitude in them, a resilient spirit as they encounter challenges and it prepares them for life.

2. Discuss the art of negotiation.

Much of life is about negotiating conflict with others and resolving it with a win/win solution or a compromise. I’ve spent years talking to my son, Jonathan, about negotiating conflict with difficult peers when they disagreed or with teachers when an assignment seemed impossible. This deepens their logic, empathy and ability to communicate. It’s a skill they will use the rest of their lives.

3. Build emotional intelligence in your kids.

EQ, not IQ, is the greatest predictor of success for young people, both as students and later as graduates. Emotional intelligence enables a person to be self-aware; to manage their own emotions; to be socially aware (how are people connected or disconnected with each other) and to manage relationships. When we build healthy EQ in our kids, we prepare them to be more resilient. (Note: we’re currently creating two new books called Habitudes and Emotional Intelligence).

4. Help them set and manage expectations.

I believe that much of life is about setting and managing healthy, realistic expectations. Kids become unhealthy when they just can’t seem to navigate what to expect (or feel entitled to) and the reality they face. For example, while we wish everyone was kind and empathetic, even grown adults can be… uh, well, immature. Prepare your kids for hardship; tell them life can be tough. It’s normal.

5. Don’t do it for them.

Whatever you do, as your kids grow older, move from “doing it for them” to “helping them learn to do it themselves.” Don’t give them a fish; teach them to fish. By age 10, when they can’t finish a project or meet a deadline, or make a practice, have them call their teacher or coach. Teach them to apologize for mistakes. If need be, go to the teacher with them, even hold their hand, but have them do the talking. It works.

Talk to me. What would you add to this list?

For more information on how to connect with your kids, check out “Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future” 



I am all about leading the next generation well. Our new tag line at Growing Leaders is Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders Today. That’s it in a nutshell. So, in today’s blog, I want to furnish some practical ideas on leading young people that any caring adult can use. See what you think…and please add to the list in the comment section: 

1. Enlist your kids in their own growth.

Effective parents I know allow their children (ages 8 and up) to choose their own rewards and punishments. Our instinct is to seize control and order our kids around, but that hasn’t worked too well for many. When we enlist our kids in their own upbringing or class regiment, we give them skills for life. Teachers can do the same thing in class. Let students and their peers choose rewards and disciplines, and let them become judge and jury for each other. This helps them “own” it.

2. Get creative in conflict resolution.

When students hit a speed bump with each other and conflict arises, they often resort to a “my way or the highway” mindset. Why not follow the example of many effective teachers and parents who’ve adapted a conflict resolution process from the Harvard Negotiation Project, used in peace talks and union strikes:

  • Separate the kids for a few minutes to let the emotions calm a bit.
  • Encourage them to come up with two to three solutions, not just their own.
  • Vote on a winner, involving both peers and caring adults. 

3. Connect them with their heritage.

Some families I know play a little game called, “Do You Know?” At a meal, they ask, “Do you know where your grandparents grew up?” Or, “Do you know how your parents met?” Or, “Do you know someone in your family who overcame a life or death hardship?” This is not only amusing, but it connects them with their past. Teachers can do the same type of thing with classmates, other faculty or coaches. It’s a healthy exercise helping a “Touch Screen” generation take a break from Google. 

4. Create environments for them to connect with adults.

Did you know that the majority of a teen’s time each week is spent with peers, not adults? As kids grow, they spend less time with the demographic they will need to know how to connect with—as they become adults. So, why not plan parties that adults attend, but have kids host them? Or, set up mentoring meals where your student can meet an adult who has a job in the field they want to enter. These inter-generational connections cultivate emotional intelligence in kids and enable them to feel more comfortable with future bosses.

What would you add to this list?



Yesterday, I shared with the Huffington Post community the following thoughts that I wanted to share with you as well…

We live in complex times. As I work with thousands of parents and faculty each year, I’m increasingly convinced we have a more engaged set of adults who care about kids today than at any time since I began my career in 1979. Simultaneously, however, I am observing a more troubled population of kids, especially by the time they reach their teen years. It appears at first like an oxymoron. How can such a cared-for generation experience such emotional difficulties?

Today, more kids struggle with depression and anxiety than at any time in modern times. In The Price of Privilege, Dr. Madeline Levine argues America’s newly-defined at-risk group is preteens and teens from affluent, well-educated families. In spite of their economic and social advantages, they experience the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders and unhappiness of any group of children in this country. Adolescent suicide has quadrupled since 1950.

Diagnosing the Emotional Health Problem in Many Kids Today

As I speak to psychologists and career counselors, I’ve begun to hear a term over and over, as they describe the emotional state of young people. This term appears to be a paradox, but it aptly defines perhaps millions of adolescents in America:

“High Arrogance, Low Self-esteem”

How can someone be cocky, yet not have a healthy sense of identity? Consider the reality they face. In a recent undergraduate survey, Dr. Art Levine reports that grade inflation has skyrocketed. In 1969, only 7 percent of students said their grade point average was an A- or higher. In 2009, it was 41 percent. In that same time period, students having a C average dropped from 25% to 5%. But with grade inflation at an all-time high, it’s surprising to note that 60 percent of students believe their grades understate the true quality of their work. They believe they deserve a higher mark. One has to wonder — are kids that much smarter than forty years ago, or do we just give them higher grades to keep the customer? The fact is, while student scores continue to decline when compared to other nations, the one statistic that remains constant is that our kids continue to assume they’re awesome.

Sheltered by parents, teachers and coaches who fear that unhappy kids are a poor reflection on them, we have rewarded them quickly, easily and repeatedly. Kids naturally begin believing they are amazing. Case in point: My son recently took part in a theatre arts competition. Parents paid dearly to enable their kid to get on stage, and now I know why. Every single student got a medal, just for showing up. When they performed, they received extra medals. The medal levels were: gold, high gold and platinum. (Did you notice that gold was the lowest award possible?) Here’s the clincher. If your kid didn’t get the award he wanted, trophies were on sale after the competition. This is not uncommon. Kids today have received trophies for ninth place in Little League baseball. They get fourth-runner up medals at competitions. Ribbons and stars are given out routinely. Of course they are arrogant. With little effort, they’ve been awarded a prize.

The problem is, as they age, they begin to suspect this affirmation is skewed. In fact, mom may be the only one telling them they’re “special” or amazing. By college, kids meet all kinds of other “special” students, who are as smart or athletic as they are. Between the ages of 17-24, kids now experience their first real “failure.” They bump up against hardship and difficulty and often aren’t resilient enough to bounce back. Truth be told, when a kid has been told they are “excellent” without working hard or truly adding value to a team, it rings hollow to them. We must realize that our affirmation must match their performance. Low self-esteem hits them at this point (often their freshmen or sophomore year in college) because they suddenly recognize their esteem may be built on a foundation of sand.

Solving the Emotional Health Problem in Many Kids Today

My point is not to suggest your child isn’t special in his own right. My point is that this is only part of the story. In preparing our young people for adulthood, we must give them a sense of the big picture. We must drip doses of reality with all the praise. When I see troubled kids from upper-middle class homes, it makes me wonder:

• Question: Are they fragile because they’ve been sheltered?

• Question: Are they unmotivated because they’ve been praised too quickly?

• Question: Do they get anxious or fearful because they’ve never taken risks?

• Question: Are they self-absorbed because they’ve been rewarded so often?

• Question: Do they move back home after college because they’re ill-prepared?

I believe two sets of messages must be communicated to students during the first two decades of their life. Sadly, very often only one set of messages gets through. The first ten years, we must communicate childhood messages. If we have done this well, they are prepared for necessary adolescent messages that prepare them for a challenging adult world:

Childhood Messages 

1.You are loved.

2. You are unique.

3. You have gifts

4. You are safe.

5. You are valuable.

Adolescent Messages

1. Life is difficult.

2. You are not in control.

3. You are not that important.

4. You are going to die.

5. Your life is not about you.

I recognize this may sound harsh, but I find myself having to communicate the second set of messages far too often to a college student. If we love these students, we will relay both messages. They deserve the truth from us and they deserve a childhood that prepares them for the life that awaits them as adults. Whether they are emotionally ready as they enter adult life… will be up to us.


Want to learn more about how to raise emotionally healthy kids?  Bring home a copy of Artificial Maturity to drill deeper.