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Four Debts Adults Owe Kids Today

For three years, our nation has experienced an economic “down turn.” The national debt is embarrassing, and the value of the U.S. dollar is lower than it has been in years. Our kids will be paying off our debts all their lives.

Greater than this debt, however, is a debt I believes adults owe the next generation. It’s a debt that has more to do with our character than our cash. When I see a troubled young person, I can usually trace it back to poor leadership he or she has received growing up. I believe adults must re-think the way we lead our students. We owe them good leadership that will produce authentic maturity in them not artificial maturity. (This is the subject of a new book I’m writing to be released next June). Whether we are parents, teachers, coaches, employers or youth workers, we have a debt to pay to our society. Consider these four debts we owe our kids today:

Clarity – This Fosters Focused Direction

Clarity is one of the greatest gifts that adults can give children. In fact, it is one of the rarest gifts that leaders provide their teams. In this day of uncertainty, we must furnish clear values and a clear role model for what healthy adults look like. Clarity fosters focused direction. It promotes ambition instead of ambiguity.  As much as possible, consider how to avoid being fuzzy about morals or ethics and about what is the right step of action in circumstances. Remember—you are not raising kids, you are raising future adults.

Where do you need to be more clear as you lead young people?

Transparency – This Fosters Validation and Vulnerability

Transparency is contagious. When a leader models it, becoming candid about their own flaws and failures, it cultivates the same level of honesty in those who follow. In fact, I believe young people will not disclose their own struggles unless they believe they’re in a safe environment to do so. When adults model transparency, it validates the young people who are listening; they feel they’re not alone. Plus, it invites honesty and vulnerability on their part.

Where do you need to be more transparent as you lead young people?

Consistency – This Fosters Trust and Assurance

As I reflect on my own parents, the greatest gift they gave me (apart from love) was the fact that their leadership and values were consistent. Often, parents ask me about how strict they should be with their kids. I think how strict we are is less important than how consistent we are, once we decide what the boundaries are. When adults are consistent in our leadership with kids, it fosters trust and assurance in them. Kids know what they can count on and begin to take risks more and even extend themselves with their time and energy because they know it’s safe.

Where do you need to be more consistent as you lead young people?

Boundary – This fosters Security

The word boundary is typically perceived as negative. Boundaries hem people in, and keep others out. They’re dividing lines. Yet, I believe boundaries are precisely what youth need as they figure out who they are. Just like a train needs tracks in order to make progress—so it is with students. The tracks kids run on must be furnished by adults at first. They don’t prevent growth and progress, they actually encourage it. When kids receive them, they gain a deep sense of security and safety. A boundary keeps the exploration from being destructive.

Where do you need to provide better boundaries as you lead young people?

Will you join me in offering these gifts to our students?

Tim

8 Comments

  1. amanda on August 31, 2011 at 7:21 am

    good stuff!

  2. mike adams on August 31, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    dinner at the table together. it was huge in my upbringing

    • Tim Elmore on September 6, 2011 at 10:08 am

      Yes! It may seem like a small detail but over time it makes a huge impact!

  3. Ryan Jenkins on September 1, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Stellar post Tim!
    I too believe the new era leader must be transparent.  Social media is thrusting us there and I think it will cause a healthy degree of accountability among leaders.
    Pumped to get my hands on your new book next June!
    Thx Tim!

    • Tim Elmore on September 6, 2011 at 10:09 am

      Thanks, Ryan! Social media is forcing a new level of transparency. While there can be some pitfalls, overall I think the outcome is positive.

  4. Trent Thomas on September 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I’d say my strengths are transparency and boundaries.  I like to be open and honest with them while still keeping a healthy space between us that says, “I am your mentor, not your father or perfect teacher.”  I struggle with consistency.  I tend to get excited about trying everything that I can struggle to zone in and focus on one principle or learning tool for an extended time with those teenagers I lead.  

    • Tim Elmore on September 6, 2011 at 10:11 am

      Great analysis – definitely sounds like you’ve spent quality time thinking through this! Thanks for sharing!

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Four Debts Adults Owe Kids Today