Archives For Parenting

In the last podcast, we talked about “How to Stop Stealing a Kid’s Ambition“.  We went through three different types of incentives that we’re seeing in kids and how we can build ambition through that. Today we are talking about six practical ways that we can foster ambition in kids.

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A recent story broke out in Paris, France about a young teenage girl who was stressed about an upcoming test. As a result of her anxiety over the test, her mother decided to dress up as a young 19-year old to go in and take her daughter’s test for her. Can you believe that? She was discovered and escorted out of the test location by police and her daughter is now banned from taking standardized tests for three years. Good intention, wrong approach.

Statistics are telling us that kids are showing less ambition and less drive than their parents at that age. There are exceptions to this of course, but the majority are lacking ambition and end up leaving college without knowing what path they want to pursue, often leaving them stuck post-college.

I believe we’ve cultivated entitlement through excessive trophies, awards, stars, and other rewards we’ve given because we want our kids to feel good about themselves as they grow up. By telling them they’re great, doesn’t actually build ambition or self-esteem. It builds good feelings, or maybe even narcissism.

I’m sure most everyone has seen at least one episode of the initial American Idol try-outs. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if they are doing a song or a comedy act. You listen to them, and wonder what kind of inaccurate feedback these kids are getting. Kids need to know what their gifts are.

Consider these two thoughts to give you wisdom as you lead students:

  1. I believe as a young person’s possibility of failure goes down, so does their value of success. One of the most valuable commodities we can cultivate is ambition (which is the result of incentive, deriving from internal motivation).
  2. I feel most valuable when I add value to others. Your reward should come from the value that you contribute. Whether that’s in sports, your community, or with chores at your family’s household, adding value gives you a sense of self-esteem.

How do we actually build ambition in students?

  1. Let our students fail. But when they do, interpret the failure with them.
  2. Tell them stories about your own failures. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our students, they want to know they’re not the only ones who fail.
  3. Help them identify what they really want to achieve. Ambition may start from curiosity.
  4. Establish rewards that only come as they work hard and make progress.
  5. Discuss your ambitions, and how you felt when you accomplished them. Kids lean in to stories and the power of narratives.
  6. Communicate your love and belief in them, regardless of what happens. They need to know they’re in an environment of unconditional love; whether that’s at home, school, or in sports.

A great example of this is the story of Zach Hunter. As a 14-year old, he developed a curiosity and passion for anti-slavery around the world. He found out there are more slaves today, than at any point in American history. Zach started raising money, through a movement he calls “LOOSECHANGE2LOOSENCHAINS“. He’s raised thousands of dollars to give to organizations that were helping to stop trafficking of children and adults in slavery. Zach ‘s passion was ignited not only because he was told he was great, but because he was doing great things.

I would love to hear your stories. How have you built incentive and ambition in kids today?

 

 

One of the clear signals of being overwhelmed or stressed is forgetfulness. We tend to forget basic items when our minds are preoccupied with data, angst or expectations.

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Historically, research has equated forgetfulness with old age. In fact, when someone forgets or misplaces something, they admit to having a “senior moment.” But a new survey tells a different story.

A Trending Machine National Poll found that Millennials, ages 18-34 are, in fact, much more likely than those 55 or older to forget everyday things:

  • What day it is (Youth are twice as likely)
  • Where they put their keys (Youth are 40% more likely)
  • Forget to bring their lunch  (Youth are three times more likely)
  • Believe it or not…take a shower (Youth are three times more likely)

What’s behind all this? Therapist, Patricia Gutentag, says, “Stress often leads to forgetfulness, depression and poor judgment. We find higher rates of ADHD diagnosis in young adults. This is a population that has grown up multi-tasking using technology, often compounded by lack of sleep, all of which results in high levels of forgetfulness.” (Huffington Post)

Believe it or not, our young adults today are overwhelmed.

It’s interesting to note that the number one word college students use to describe their life is the word: “overwhelmed.” Approximately 94% of students say they are overwhelmed with life. 44% say they are so overwhelmed it’s difficult to function. And nearly one in ten admitted that they’ve thought about suicide in the past year.

Six Leadership Steps You Can Take

This is basic—but to lead a population of overwhelmed students, we can practice six action steps with them:

1. Simplify

Help them sort out their priorities and separate their “have to do’s” from their “want to do’s.” Often, they get these confused. Next, help them to simplify their complex agenda into a manageable amount of items. Help them say “no.”

2. Clarify

Help them to sort out what their vision is; ask questions to enable them to recognize what’s really important, so they can be about that business. I often tell students: you can do anything but you can’t do everything. Help them prioritize.

3. De-mystify

Sometimes, kids assume it is impossible to meet all the expectations others have of them. I suppose this could be true for some—but most students simply need a mentor to help them remove their fears and assumptions of what’s feasible.

4. Intensify

Perhaps you’ll need to introduce them to an old-fashioned method for preventing stress: a to-do list. Show them how to list all the actions they must perform, then position them on the list in the proper order, pursuing the top 20% first.

5. Gamify

This one works well with students, especially males. Turn the priorities that must be achieved into a game. They can be timed or scored with points and transformed into a competition. This enables the “work” to feel like play.

6. Rectify

Students need to know they cannot be disillusioned unless they are first “illusioned.” This means, we must reject unrealistic expectations (illusions) of life always being easy, quick or fun. We must help students rectify their faulty expectations of life.

As you teach and invest in young people—you’ll likely need to help them navigate this emotional challenge.

What else can we do to equip them?

 

I just spent time with some middle school students, after an assembly. I’d spoken on the topic of how we must develop character to be trusted by others in life. The young teens I spoke with afterward were visibly confused. I could see it in their faces. I had given them a new “compass” and it didn’t fit their worldview.

The conversation was about the celebrities they follow, who’d exhibited “poor character” decisions. May I give you some examples?

* Johnny Manziel, quarterback from Texas A and M, had just been tossed out of a game because he couldn’t manage his emotions or his mouth. He’s been accused of signing autographs for money and he’s not handling the bad press very well. He was penalized in the game and may be penalized beyond that.

* My guess is—you heard about or even watched Miley Cyrus dance on the VMA’s. This Disney diva has now gone to another extreme, attempting so hard to be Lady Gaga, or Madonna. She obviously wants to strip off the Disney “nice girl” image, but when we saw her bump and grind on stage, it made most us feel sorry for her.

* Justin Bieber has been accused of smoking marijuana or using illegal drugs after posting a video on Instragram. He’s giggling like he’s drunk and can’t complete a paragraph. Why is it when new technology comes out, it happens on a day when a young celebrity is not fit to record?

* Lindsay Lohan is back in the news, sober this time, after spending time in jail. She confessed to addictive behavior on an Oprah interview. Drugs and alcohol make us behave badly. We all fell in love with this young actress in “The Parent Trap” fifteen years ago in 1998. Today, she is attempting to get control of her life again.

* Three years ago, we all heard about Tiger Woods’ multiple affairs with women. He was a married man, but decided he could live above the rules—as a lifestyle—and do whatever he wanted. He even said so. It’s been a while since his confession and he’s still trying to get his game back.

What Do You Say to Your Kids When Their Idol Goes Astray

As I listened to those young teens talk about these celebrities or “idols” I realized they needed help interpreting what was going on. They loved the talent in each of those idols, but were now seeing the “underbelly” of their lifestyle. Here’s what I said that might be helpful as you discuss this topic with kids:

1. We must separate the gift from the person.

This was the most helpful insight. We must always maintain the ability to separate a performer’s gift from their person. By this I mean, we can enjoy watching their gift for music or throwing a ball—without buying into it all; making them an “idol.”

2. We must develop a moral compass that enables us to evaluate conduct.

It’s key to keep our priorities straight. Most fallen celebrities failed to do this. They got caught up in the fame and fortune, and lost their way. Students must decide what their values are and not swerve from them as they watch others gain notoriety.

3. We can learn from their strengths, but not emulate their life.

I try to always appreciate and admire the strengths of others—and learn every lesson I can from how they leveraged it. However, this does not mean I imitate that person in other areas. We can learn something from any person if we try.

4. We must find mentors who can help us mature in well-rounded ways.

Especially when we’re prone to worship a celebrity, we must find mentors, older veterans who can help us as we grow, to provide perspective to us. Mentors can give us wisdom to think straight when everyone else is swooning over a fad.

5. We must remember that money can’t buy love or happiness.

Most of the celebrities who’ve gone astray would admit that they misplace a value they once embraced and now looked to money (or some other cosmetic tool) to furnish what they wanted. You cannot buy stuff that really matters in life.

6. We can celebrate their talent without endorsing their lifestyle.

I hope I never stop celebrating the talented people I meet. However, as I mentioned before, we must separate that from an endorsement of the lives of those people. This is why I can read books from authors I don’t agree with, or listen to speakers whose style I don’t completely appreciate. The key: eat the fish and spit out the bones.

I hope this sparks some of your own insights as you converse with students.

 
photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

I’ve been watching a trend that I believe every teacher, parent, coach, youth pastor and school administrator should be watching these days.

It’s the changes toy makers have made in board games to engage today’s kids.

students today

Recently, Hasbro — the toy and game maker — reported it lost more than $2 million last quarter, compared to a $17 million profit in the same period last year. That’s enough to make any executive re-think their product.

So — like many others — Hasbro has begun adjusting their toys and games to fit today’s generation of kids, who are… well… different than past generations who grew up in a slower, less convenient and “play outside” period of history.

The Rules of Engagement are Changing

For example, when I was growing up, the game of Monopoly could go on for hours, maybe even days among family members. Families would leave the board out on the kitchen table so they could pick it back up the next evening. Consumer research reveals that kids want to play Monopoly faster these days. So, Monopoly is making some changes. First, “Monopoly Millionaire” is now in stores. The first person to accumulate a million dollars wins the game. Second, Monopoly is doing away with their “Jail” and the “Go to Jail” card in the game. Kids don’t have the time or patience to spend time in jail — they want to keep moving forward.

Recently, Lego’s made some changes, too. Do you remember playing with Lego’s when you were growing up? I do. I had a big box of those little bricks and built “stuff” for hours in my room. Today Lego’s has undergone a change. Seeing a dip in sales, the makers of Lego’s decided to include “instructions” in the product, telling kids exactly what to build and how to build it. They’ve found it fits the “I need you to spoon-feed me the answer” mindset adults have created in kids today. They now need us to be more prescriptive, not just descriptive in our instruction.

A new version of the game of “Life” allows players to use iPad’s touchscreen as a high-tech spinner, and then watch a video to see the results of their “life decision.” John Frascotti reports introducing several new gaming innovations this year that will feature this convergence of analog and digital play — both a board and a screen. You already know that the toy “Transformers” has transformed itself into two box office hit movies over the last five years. It’s now both in a box and on a screen.

What’s Our Take Away?
Today’s student, from Generation iY, wants an experience that includes:
• Speed — I get bored easily. Keep the pace of change high.
• Screens — I am visual. I’m more comfortable looking at pixels then people.
• Stipulations — I need you to prescribe what you want me to do.
• Stimulation — I need quick rewards and outside pay-offs to keep me engaged.

While it’s important for us to exegete today’s young person, it’s also important to recognize what we’ve done to them. Have we done too much? In our effort to keep them happy and entertained, have we sabotaged their ability to persevere, bounce back, learn soft skills and find internal motivation? Perhaps its time to re-ignite their imagination, ask them to make up the game and learn to wait for prizes that come from being committed to a goal.

At Growing Leaders, we’ve begun to explore what it means to “gamify” the life skills our kids desperately need for life. We’re excited about building a bridge from their world to the world they’ll soon enter.

So, here’s my assignment for you. When you examine the young people around you, what skills sets are they missing? Is there a way to somehow create an engaging game to begin to develop those skills instead of diminishing them?

This week, I’ve been blogging about “outliers” in Generation iY. These are teens or twenty-somethings who are exceptions to the rule: they aren’t slackers, they are not narcissistic, and they have a good work ethic. You and I both know—you can find these kids everywhere, but they are different than their peers.

generation iY

Today, I want to introduce you to a book written by historian and educator Ken Bain. This book, What the Best College Students Do, draws a road map for students who want to stand out, not just blend in.

Bain believes there are three types of learners:

  1. Surface Learners: who do as little as possible to get by
  2. Strategic Learners: who aim for top grades rather than true understanding
  3. Deep Learners: who leave college with a real, rich education

Bain then introduces us to a host of real-life deep learners: young and old, scientific and artistic, famous or still getting there. Although they each have their own insights, Bain identifies common patterns in their stories. Below are a few of them:

Pursue passion, not A’s. When he was in college, says astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, he was “moved by curiosity, interest and fascination, not by making the highest scores on a test.” As an adult, he points out, “no one ever asks you what your grades were. Grades become irrelevant.” In his experience as a student and a professor, says Tyson, “ambition and innovation trump grades every time.”

Get comfortable with failure. When he was still a college student, comedian Stephen Colbert began working with an improvisational theater in Chicago. “That really opened me up in ways I hadn’t expected,” he tells Bain. “You must be O.K. with bombing. You have to love it.” Colbert adds, “Improvisation is a great educator when it comes to failing. There’s no way you are going to get it right every time.”

Make a personal connection to your studies. In her sophomore year in college, Eliza Noh, now a professor of Asian-American studies at California State University at Fullerton, took a class on power in society: who has it, how it’s used. “It really opened my eyes. For the first time in my life, I realized that learning could be about me and my interests, about who I was,” Noh tells Bain. “I didn’t just listen to lectures, but began to use my own experiences as a jumping-off point for asking questions and wanting to pursue certain concepts.”

Read and think actively. Dean Baker, one of the few economists to predict the economic collapse of 2008, became fascinated in college by the way economic forces shape people’s lives. His studies led him to reflect on “what he believed and why, integrating and questioning,” Baker says: ”I was always looking for arguments in something I read, and pinpointed the evidence to see how it was used.”

Ask big questions. Jeff Hawkins, an engineer who created the first mobile computing device, organized his college studies around four profound questions he wanted to explore: Why does anything exist? Given that a universe does exist, why do we have the particular laws of physics that we do? Why do we have life, and what is its nature? And given that life exists, what’s the nature of intelligence? For many of the subjects he pursued, “there was no place to ‘look it up,’ no simple answer.”

Here’s to equipping your students to be exceptions to the rule.