Archives For Parenting

The College Gap

June 27, 2013 — 3 Comments

college gap

Here’s a fact that may be news to you. Kids today are among the first generation in a century that may be less educated than their parents. Yep. This is the issue that has educators and social scientists musing: America’s trend has been that children are typically more educated than their parents, through each generation. Today—that trend is in decline.

But why? Here are some reasons from my perspective.

1. College education today doesn’t guarantee a job, but it does guarantee a debt

Many adolescents know friends who got their bachelor’s degree, and now have no job but they do have a $25,000 debt. They don’t want to take that risk.

2. They now see beyond the one gauge their parents had for success: a college degree

For years, Boomer parents said: my kids will go to college!  It was a reflection on them. Today, kids now look for other creative avenues to pursue their dreams or make a living.

3. Few have any interest in courses that don’t seem relevant to their career

Our culture conditions kids to be pragmatic. They have a Google reflex. Stimulation and information overload keep them from investing in a liberal arts degree with no sure ROI.

4. Many adolescents don’t possess the Emotional Intelligence for student success

Many have never shared a room, a bathroom or developed conflict resolution skills. Low- level social skills and low self-awareness prevent them from healthy campus living.

5. The cost of higher education has swelled higher than inflation rates

For some, college isn’t a realistic proposition. While working graduates do make more money, the degree costs more than it’s worth due to high debt and unemployment.

6. A large amount of kids have atrophied virtues that enable them to finish well

Virtues like old-fashioned discipline, patience or tenacity have atrophied like an unused muscle. Kids used to speed, convenience and passivity find the rigors of school difficult.

7. Lack of support from those closest to them

Without constant encouragement, many drop out of education. Dysfunctional home environments or going solo make it difficult. It’s tough to finish the journey without help.

The fact is—when Generation Y was first surveyed in 2000, 90% of them planned to attend college. Today, almost a third of them don’t finish high school. Sadly, the rigors of high school don’t prepare young adults for the world they’re about to enter. We must develop employable skills in them in high school and college. While I am a firm believer in the value of education, not all kids should go to college. Many need to further their education in technical fields or vocational training to fill jobs that don’t require liberal arts degrees. It sounds cliché, but today we need education to help emerging employees both get the corner office and build the corner office.

Talk to me. Can you think of other reasons for this trend? And…is this bad?



For fifteen years now, the term passion has become a vague expression. There are organizations, books, non-profit ministries, conferences and campaigns that all market the word to push their brand. It’s a great word, but is so often overused that I think it’s meaning has been diluted.

So—let’s look at the root word. Passion means any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, such as love or hate. We feel passionate about a football team; about a lover; about ice cream; about our faith in God. We all know, however, there’s a difference between passions—some mean more than others; some we sacrifice for and others…not so much. If we are honest, we fail to discern the difference between:

  • Curiosity
  • Interests
  • Opinions
  • Beliefs
  • Commitments
  • Convictions

There is one truth I know. Passion requires at least two ingredients if it is ever going to turn into action. The two ingredients are:

  1. Ambition: the longing to experience something beyond your current reality.
  2. Discomfort: the current misery you feel pushing you to change your reality.

One reason I think we often don’t see a student’s passion turn into action is they aren’t uncomfortable enough. Kids today are full of energy and creativity. But it’s frequently not transformed into behavior because their current reality is quite satisfactory. They’re not dissatisfied enough. Adolescence is full of playful pleasure.

Do you know why Egypt experienced a revolution in January of 2011? The young people in that country were dissatisfied and uncomfortable. Passion became action.

Do you know why Alexei Navalny, the young Russian who opposes the oppressive regime of Vladimir Putin, is getting results? He’s uncomfortable and dissatisfied. He has harnessed the Internet and his voice is being heard.

Do you know why Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is making films? She is angry at current conditions. She is fighting the injustices of Pakistan by telling the story of the acid victims who’ve been marginalized.

None of these ordinary people would be doing these things without passion. And none of them would be passionate enough to sacrifice for their causes unless they were ambitious and dissatisfied.

So let’s talk turkey. Are you ambitious and uncomfortable? How about the students you lead? Have you allowed them to experience some disequilibrium that leads to action? I recommend you create some environments and experiences where your “kids” get uncomfortable…and see what passion lies inside. Expose them to some problems and then—make sure they feel the weight of those problems.

Years ago, a major airline had a pattern of losing luggage. No matter how much the CEO talked to his managers, however, they just couldn’t seem to solve the problem. So, the CEO created a little passion in them. He called for a meeting at headquarters asking each manger to fly in for two days. Then, the CEO requested the baggage handlers purposely lose the managers luggage. They did. Amazingly, it was at this meeting these managers found some great solutions to stop losing luggage.

I’m just saying…

Learn more about leading and channeling your passion in: Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Growing Up Authentically.

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”