Archives For Parenting

Stress is a condition in which an individual experiences challenges to physical or emotional well-being that overwhelm their coping capacity. While some experience with manageable stress is important for healthy development, prolonged, uninterrupted, overwhelming stress can have toxic effects. This type of toxic stress is often associated with childhood abuse and neglect.


photo credit: miguelavg via photopin cc

According to an article on the Ready Nation website, (sponsored by America’s Promise and Colin Powell), in the early years of life when the brain is developing rapidly it is particularly sensitive to environmental influences. Toxic early life stress (ELS) may induce persistent hyper- sensitivity to stressors and sensitization of neural circuits and other neurotransmitter systems which process threat information. These neurobiological sequelae of ELS may promote the development of short and long-term behavioural and emotional problems that may persist and increase the risk for psychopathology and physical health disorders into adulthood.

In laymen’s terms, there are three kinds of stress that kids experience. The first two represent stress that are typical and that can be overcome with healthy responses. The third, however, is chronic and toxic stress. It results from an on-going negative, destructive and unhealthy environment in a home. It will affect a student’s grades, attitudes and ultimately their performance.

Have You Noticed?

I’d like to hear from you. One observation I am making week after week is the level of stress that students experience and how little it takes to overwhelm them.  In other words, I believe students are more “stressed out” than at any time since I began working with students (in 1979), and it takes less and less to really stress them out—making a poor grade, breaking up with a boyfriend, not winning a soccer game, scoring low on a test, etc. None of these experiences are fun, but when compared to the stress kids faced in history, they pale in comparison.

If I am accurate in this observation, let me offer some reasons why this might be:

  1. We have not developed emotionally strong kids. Instead of learning to resolve conflict in relationships and read body language by interacting with various generations, we put them in front of a screen that requires little to no emotional intelligence.
  2. We have medicated their problems. Whether it’s physical pain or not getting what they want, we tend to provide a band aid rather than a cure. We take them shopping, or give them pain relievers—and naturally so. Unfortunately, they haven’t learn to live with pain.
  3. We nurture too much. While I totally understand the tendency to nurture (I am a dad), I think we have over-done it, leaving them without the tools they need to navigate life’s hardships. In the past, parents took pride in giving their children everything they needed; today, parents take pride in giving them everything they want.

Unfortunately, what kids want is what we all naturally gravitate toward—comfort, pleasure and entertainment. I want that just like anyone else does. However, my greatest seasons of growth were moments I did not enjoy, moments that weren’t pleasurable.

Here’s my challenge. Let’s be leaders who are intentional about building our strong and robust emotions into our students. This means having conversations, creating experiences and exposing them to people who will equip them, not merely medicate their problems.

Your thoughts?

Already, I meet parents and teachers who ask the question: What can we expect from the Homelanders, the new generation of kids born after the Millennial Generation or Generation Y?


photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

According to most social scientists, Generation Y births ended between 2000 and 2002. This means that kids in elementary school now are from a new generation. Two leading generational experts, Howe and Strauss, have already coined the term: Homelanders. They are earth’s newest generation. This name seems to fit since their first year (2003) was about the same time America gave birth to the Department of Homeland Security.

They were born into a different world than previous generations, and are the first generation born in the 21st century. Because their early world is marked by terrorism, a troubled economy and a savvy, almost jaded social climate, they may not embrace the optimism of the early Millennials. In fact, below is my first attempt at contrasting the Homelanders with Generation Y. It is still early, but these are the marks we see in them, as we work with primary-aged kids and observe how parents, culture and schools have shaped them.

GENERATION Y (1984-2002) HOMELANDERS (2003-2021)
Adventurous Cautious and safety preoccupied
Green friendly, but self-indulged Green-biased; focus on conservation
Secure; high self-esteem Insecure; seeking identity
Easy come, easy go Calculated
Poor at finances Frugal stewards of resources
Dependant upon parents/adults Self-reliant
Optimistic and progressive Realistic and pragmatic
Cause-oriented Issue-oriented
I want it all I seek balance; trade-offs
Naïve Globally savvy and aware

Our work with these young students may require us to develop a new set of skills and a new level of emotional intelligence. They may need to hear different words of encouragement. They may need to be pushed to take risks and believe in the future more than their earlier counterparts did. While the world is still at their fingertips and communication with others globally is immediately available, this new batch of kids will approach life a bit more cautiously and safely. They’ll be forced to be more calculated and pragmatic in their planning. They may be compelled to grow up faster than the “postponed” Millennials before them. With this in mind, observe these young children and see what you conclude about the habits forming in their lives. Let’s lead them well.

Is Everyone a Leader?

October 5, 2012 — 16 Comments

There I stood in front of a crowd of one thousand students and faculty members, at a university in the Midwest. One instructor stood up with a question I get almost everywhere I go: “Is everyone a leader?”

The answer of course is yes and no. (How’s that for a politically correct answer?) It all depends on how you define the word “leader.” If you define it in the traditional fashion—that a leader is someone with a position, in charge of a group of people in an organization—then, the answer is no, in my opinion. Not everyone and certainly not every student is gifted to become the president, the chairman, the CEO or the key leader of a large team of people. Most will never occupy a top spot in a flow chart. Perhaps only ten percent of the population will.


I also hear loads of excuses as to why people just can’t be a leader. They are varied, but I’ve found one common thread in them. All of them fail to embrace what we at Growing Leaders consider to be an authentic definition for leadership. This leads to the following excuses for why people cannot lead. Continue Reading…

I know, I know. One minute you think you’re understanding Generation Y 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 a few short phrases. I bounced this little set of phrases off of students and they said: “That’s me!” If you are from Generation Y… see what you think of this summary.


Continue Reading…

Yesterday, I blogged about the fact that kids today are overwhelmed yet under-challenged at the same time. This irony is due to the fact that they’re busier than ever, yet with virtual activities that don’t really prepare them for the world that awaits them as adults. My grandparent’s generation, for instance, modeled this reality—they were working the farm at 14, working jobs at 15, leading armies at 17 and getting married at 19. Even if you believe this was wrong—it proved that it was inside of young people to pull it off. They’re capable.


photo credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet via photopin cc

Today—we excuse childish behavior in a sixteen year old, saying, “He’s just a kid.”

Think Facebook, video games, texting, YouTube, Hulu, etc. It’s often busy-ness, yet superficial. Yesterday, I documented the fact that we dumb-down the teen world, and now expect far less than we did of kids two generations ago. Continue Reading…