Archives For Parenting

What’s Your End Game?

August 12, 2013 — 6 Comments

Here’s a question every teacher, coach and parent should ask themselves:

What’s the end game as I lead my students? My athletes? My kids?


end game

Seriously. How do you know if you’ve done your job well? What’s a “win” for you? If it’s simply teaching a subject, building an athletic skill or nurturing them, then we have done a stellar job. Kids today are well-educated, better at sports and believe they’re very special. We’ve definitely nurtured this generation of young people. Some say we’ve wrapped them in bubble wrap and put a helmet on them.

But if the end-game is preparing them to live without help—then we’ve failed. If our ultimate goal is self-regulation and independence, we’ve done a miserable job.

Young Adults Still Depending on Mom and Dad

New research is out—and the evidence is clear. In 2012, 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31—the Millennial generation—were living in their parents’ home, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. This is the highest share in at least four decades and represents a slow but steady increase over the 32% of their same-aged counterparts who were living at home prior to the Great Recession in 2007 and the 34% doing so when it officially ended in 2009.

A record total of 21.6 million Millennials lived in their parents’ home in 2012, up from 18.5 million of their same aged counterparts in 2007.  The males of the Millennial generation are more likely than the women to be living with their parents—40% versus 32%—continuing a long-term gender gap in the share of young adults who do so.

Now I know what you’re thinking. The economy is bad. Jobs are scarce. Money is tight, and perhaps a twenty-something can save more when living in their parents’ basement. Perhaps—if that is, indeed, what they’re doing. But here’s what we’re finding. Both females and males seem to be moving back home after college—the latest number is 85% of last year’s senior class planned on moving back home when they finished school. The difference is, the females moved back home with an exit plan. The males moved back home…with no plan.

A New End Game

May I suggest a new objective for you? I believe our end game is to prepare these young people to live without us; to work, to play, to grow and to thrive on their own. So how do we do this? How do we prepare them for their future?

1. Establish an expectation – Let them know when they need to be on their own.

2. Identify a strength – Help them find their natural strengths and play to them.

3. Cultivate a skill – Enable them to turn their strength into a valuable skill.

4. Provide a network – Introduce them to key people you know who can help them.

5. Furnish a compass – Show them how to make good trade-offs and decisions.

6. Give them a deadline – Set a date that they must be ready to move on and out.

Ultimately, love doesn’t coddle, it cultivates. If we love our students, we will do everything in our power to equip them for the future. It has little to do with our need for love or our need to be needed. It has everything to do with their need to be self-reliant and on their own. This is our measuring stick.

Talk to me. Am I too tough on them? Am I being too tough on adults?


Do you remember the scenario I presented last week on the blog and in the Huffington Post on “When Helping Our Kids Starts Hurting Them”? I wrote about a 52-year-old mother, Caroline, who actually posed as her 19-year old daughter in order to take a test in her place at school. She put on her skinny jeans, Converse shoes and lots of makeup and entered the room. She was eventually caught and both mom and daughter faced serious charges for their actions.


helping our kids

A friend just told me of two parents who meet at Starbucks each week for a latte. Sitting together at a table, this mom and dad do their son’s homework for him. It’s a habit.

Career expert Nicole Williams tells of a situation where she believed she found the perfect applicant to hire for her company, but then Mom called. It was not her mother, but the applicant’s mom calling to inquire about every detail of her daughter’s potential new job. Needless to say, Williams withdrew her job offer; she wasn’t prepared to take the mom on as well.

Why are we so prone to do things like this? Is that really the best way to support our sons or daughters? Are our kids incapable? Are they fragile? If so, did we do this to them? Or are we going beyond our job description as a parent, to remove life’s struggles in the name of giving our kids a “better life” than we had? Hmmm. There’s got to be a better way.

Teaching Them to Ride a Bike

I’ve come to believe that parenting our kids is a lot like teaching them to ride a bike. It’s a process. We begin by strapping them to us as infants and we do all the peddling. They just enjoy the ride. Next, we give them a tricycle. It has three wheels, so it’s difficult to fall off, but they get comfortable peddling themselves. Then, we give them an actual bike, but we initiate them to the experience with training wheels. They’re on two wheels, but those extra wheels prevent them from falling. Finally, we remove the training wheels — and now our help is a tender balance of SUPPORT and LETTING GO. Did you catch that? We must both support them and let go of them if they’re ever going to do it on their own.

The EASY Solution
Try these four steps with your students that spell the word: EASY. When your young person is up against a challenge, here’s how you can balance support and letting go. It’s EASY:

E – Encourage them first.
The best help a parent can offer first is to sit down and offer encouragement. They need to hear someone they respect tell them: “I think it’s in you to do this. You have what it takes.” Encouragement is the oxygen of the soul.

A – Ask Questions next.
Look at the problem with your child. Ask them questions that will help them do the critical thinking they need to do to solve it. Questions are almost always more helpful than spoon-feeding them possible answers. It teaches them how to think.

S – Simulate a problem.
Come up with a similar problem and walk them through how to solve it, so they can apply that skill to problems they’ve been given by their instructor. In other words, instead of merely talking about it, help them “practice” the skill they must learn.

Y – Yoke Them with a Peer.
Like oxen in a yoke together, connect them to other students who do understand the work. Yokes enable two oxen, a weaker and stronger one, to co-labor. Build a bridge to a solution through a peer-mentor, rather doing the work for them.

My friend, Andy, told me his son, Wyatt, was struggling to keep up in his math class. At the end of the semester, when Andy asked his 10-year old son how he was doing, Wyatt broke down in tears. Because he had failed an exam, he was unable to attend a pizza party the entire class enjoyed. (Wyatt was the only kid who didn’t get to go). Instead of marching down to the school and trying to make the problem go away, Andy decided to encourage Wyatt and ask where he needed help. By the end of their conversation, Wyatt told his father he never wanted to miss another pizza party again. Determined to succeed, he got online and signed up for a mentor at Math-nasium. Thanks to a great dad, Wyatt is improving at both math and life skills. Not bad for a ten-year old kid.

Here’s to equipping our kids to be ready adults — which is the help they really need.


I spoke to the school administrators in a large school district this past week, and had a principal ask an interesting question during the break: 

“When we consider the lack of maturity in our high school students today, it seems overwhelming. Where do we begin the process of equipping them for adulthood?”

student development

What a great question. There are hundreds of issues that parents, teachers, coaches, mentors and youth workers could focus on, in an attempt to prepare them for college and career. But may I offer a suggestion?

Start with their emotions.

That’s right. I believe the arena we must first address is the emotional maturation of our young people. Let me explain. When educators measure the growth of students, they generally evaluate four categories:

  1. Cognitive growth
  2. Biological growth
  3. Social growth
  4. Emotional growth

It appears to me that kids today are advanced in the first three categories: their minds contain so much data; they’ve matured physically and enter puberty faster than former generations; they are socially connected more so than ever before. But emotionally—it appears they have fallen woefully short. It’s a weakness. They get stressed easier; they do not rebound from failure quickly; and don’t handle criticism from superiors well at all. This have been verified nationwide among adolescents. We have failed to get them ready emotionally.

Further, when you study where graduates fall short in job interviews or on the job, it almost always surrounds some issue of emotional immaturity:

  • Lack of resilience
  • Poor emotional intelligence
  • Bad work ethic
  • Low empathy
  • Lack of ambition
  • Absent soft skills
  • Fragile demeanor

These are not issues of intelligence. They are emotional issues. They have more to do with attitude than aptitude. Emotional intelligence continues to be a glaring weakness in Generation iY when I talk to HR executives. Empathy continues to decline at 5% per year in teens and twenty-somethings nationwide. Ambition, work ethic and soft skills are so absent that some companies are hiring special trainers to come in and prepare their youngest employees just to interact face to face and work alongside someone who’s not your BFF. This is not an IQ issue—but an EQ issue. And EQ is a greater predictor of success in life than IQ. I don’t know of any employer who is asking young job candidates about their GPA. I do know they are asking questions about their communication skills, soft skills and their leadership skills.

Let me recommend three books that can help you help students in this area:

  1. Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman
  2. Leadership and Self-Deception – The Arbinger Institute
  3. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves

May you prepare your students to be emotionally ready for their future.


Have you noticed a trend in our culture, especially over the last fifteen years? Let me illustrate it with a few current news stories.

A film is coming out soon, called “The Bling Ring.” It’s another story of a girl, played by Emma Watson, who’s so obsessed with celebrities she breaks into their homes and steals from them. The result? She lands her own reality TV show. It’s a picture of a growing obsession with celebrities and their scandalous lives.

someone else

Second, high school students were surveyed, and asked the question: What would you most like to do in your career? Their top answers may surprise you:

  • 9.5% – Chose a chief of a major Company
  • 9.8% – Chose a Navy SEAL.
  • 13.6% – Chose a United States Senator
  • 43.4% – Chose the personal assistant to a famous singer or movie star

Becoming an assistant to a celeb was their top answer. They don’t want the pressure of being famous; just to be close to someone who lives that fairy tale lifestyle.

Third, online games like “Second Life” continue to attract attention among young people. These games allow a user to pose as someone else; living another life, with other homes, cars and possessions. Most choose some celebrity they admire. They get to live vicariously through an avatar. It’s a preoccupation with pretending to be someone else, perhaps a famous person, and live through them.

None of these realities are earth shattering. But they illustrate our growing obsession with fame; with being someone else who seems to have a better life. I am not sure if this expanding consumption is due to the fact that we’ve overdosed on other people’s Facebook pages, Instagrams, or Tweets and become envious of their lifestyle—but we seem to believe our life is boring when compared to other people. We want fame and intrigue, so we fixate on a person who seems to have it.

Why is this a growing trend? Social anthropologist Jamie Tehrani says it gives people a piece of what they want and feel they lack. Jamie likens it to “junk food for the mind.” Quick. Convenient, but not necessarily nutritious. Gorging ourselves on images of wealth and success appeal to our appetite for prestige. Bumble Ward, a long-time publicist, says, “It makes people feel better about their own lives. Focusing on the trivial pursuits of celebrities has become a national past time. The more banal the information the better. They (celebrities) are more like us.”

What’s wrong with this?

It’s an irony, but in a day of bloating self-esteem—we don’t like our own lives enough to be content with them. They’re not glitzy enough. Many young people have bought into the notion that anything boring is bad. Routines are blue collar. We want our life to sparkle. My belief is—our lives can sparkle plenty, without being famous, if we choose to invest our time and energy well. But we have to shift our compass from the one the media in our culture has given us.

Tomorrow, we’ll examine what’s happened in detail and look at solutions.


Back in February, I wrote the blog, “Three Huge Mistakes We Make Leading Kids…and How to Correct Them”. Today, we are going to discuss ten ideas that you can use to lead better as a parent, educator, or coach. 


Click to Listen

Episode Summary

In today’s society, we are a very engaged group of adults; I believe we are so engaged that we may have created some unintended consequences as a result of our style of leadership. This podcast focuses on ten ideas that I would use, to correct our mistakes that we’ve made as teachers, coaches, and parents.

Idea #1: Don’t Think Control, Think Connect

  • Our natural tendency is to govern our kids actions and decisions. Oftentimes, become control freaks.
  • Control is a myth. Studies show that parents who over-program their child’s schedule often breed kids who rebel as teens.
  • Seek connection with your students, to earn the opportunity to influence.

Idea #2: Stop thinking Inform, think Interpret

  • This is the first generation of kids that do not need adults for access to information
  • Kids have content, without context
  • Provide a balanced perspective
  • “They don’t need us to access information, but to process information” –Len Sweet

Idea #3: Don’t think Entertain, think Equip

  • Adopt the perspective, “How can I equip my young person for the future?
  • Happiness is a by-product, not a pursuit.
  • Move from busying kids for happiness, to enriching kids for fulfillment.

Idea #4: Don’t think do it For them, do it With them

  • “You can do it, we can help” –Home Depot
  • “Healthy and robust self-esteem actually comes from achievement, not merely affirmation.” -APA
  • Don’t do it yourself, transfer the skill.

Idea #5: Don’t think Impose, think Expose

  • Kids have been overwhelmed by options, which we have used to create fences and boundaries.
  • We need to give them opportunities, that they cannot pass up.
  • Create scarcity and ownership.

Idea #6: Don’t think Prescriptive, think Descriptive

  • Encourage your young people to create a goal and reach it.
  • Provide opportunities for young people to own their method.
  • Help develop their ambition and creativity.

Idea #7: Don’t think Protect, Think Prepare

  • Think long-term- “I want to get you ready, for the world that awaits you.”
  • “80% of last year senior college class intends to move home after graduation.” -Baltimore Sun
  • Greatest gift you can give your child is the ability to get along without you.

Idea #8: Don’t think Tell, think Ask

  • Kids are not ready for the freedom to answer questions. We must encourage self-regulation and lead with questions so they can own their journey.
  • When we lead with questions, we force young people to think and choose on their own.

Idea #9: Don’t think Cool, think Real

  • Kids don’t want cool adults, they want you to be real, authentic, and relevant.
  • We need to be self-aware to let kids see what life should look like in their future.

Idea #10: Don’t think Lecture, think Lab

  • In science class, lecture is often the boring part. Lab on the other hand, is more exciting because it is engaging.
  • Kids aren’t looking for a lecture; they want experiences to try out what they know.
  • Don’t transmit an idea, transform a life.

World-wide, psychologists are discovering the down-side of our obsession over kid’s self-esteem, safety, and happiness. Personally, I want to be a leader, teacher, and parent that young people see as someone who has made these corrections; that are doing this Interpret, not Inform, Expose not Impose, and want to Pull along, not Push along…and that is my wish for you as well.

I encourage you to write down these 10 ideas, so that you can really think about changes that you can make to lead your kids better. Focus on 1-2 of these areas, and I am confident you will see growth in your own leadership journey.


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.