Kids are growing up in a very different world than the one I grew up in. Both teachers and parents have changed the way they approach leading students. Some of these changes are great—but some have had unintended consequences.
Thirty years ago, we changed the way we led, taught and parented our children. It all began with the Tylenol scare in September, 1982. The next month, as kids trick-or-treated, taking candy from strangers—it was as though adults rose up, launched hot-lines and determined we’d safeguard our kids from harm, boost self-esteem, give them a head-start with Baby Einstein and insure they grew up confident and comfortable in this very uncertain world. Well—it worked. At least, partly.
Social scientists agree that kids today are highly confident, and believe they can change the world. Unfortunately, there have been some unintended consequences to our new leadership style. Over the next four days, let me suggest four of them, and what we must do to balance the negative impact of the following:
- Adults often won’t let kids fail.
- Adults often won’t let kids fall.
- Adults often won’t let kids fear.
- Adults often won’t let kids fight.
Let’s take a quick look at this first mistake we make.
1. Adults won’t let kids fail.
Think about this change. In the past, when a student got in trouble or failed a class, parents would reinforce the teacher’s grade and insist they study harder. Today, parents often side with their child and the teacher gets in trouble. Moms and dads have made their child their “trophy”; children are a reflection on the success of parents. So, every kid is a winner; they all get trophies; we pass them on to the next grade even if they’re not really ready for it; we will graduate them even if they didn’t learn a subject and we give them money even if they didn’t earn it. Obviously, this is not how life works after childhood.
What can we do? Identify experiences where you will allow your young person to take calculated risks and experience failure at a project or class. Coach them, but don’t intervene and do it for them. Build an emotional muscle that is capable of enduring a failure and seeing there is life afterward. My teenage son, Jonathan, recently double booked himself on the calendar. He made two commitments for the same time. He asked if I would call his supervisor and negotiate it for him. I said, “JC, I would love to—but that won’t help you in the long run. I want YOU to call and determine a win/win solution.” He made the call and lived to tell about it.