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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Generation iY Students Who Don’t Fit the Mold

I received an inquiry a few weeks ago from Karen, a student who read my blog. She made an interesting request:

“I was wondering if it would be of interest to look into the effects of typical Gen iY and their over-indulgent parents on other Gen iY persons and parents who may not fit this mold."

“For example, I find myself quite bitter about others my age. I feel that I work hard, I play by the rules, yet I am never praised or given freedom/trust from my parents. As a result, I find that I am extremely jealous and somewhat depressed. I always see others doing supposedly "worse" than me and reaping many rewards, and can't help but feel entitled to at least some reward."

“Perhaps I am not the only one who shares this view and maybe others do too. This may be an interesting side of Gen iY you may be interested in looking into.”

Karen—you bring up a great point. Count me in.

generation iY

As I speak at student events, I meet “exceptions to the rule” almost everywhere. They are young adults who break the mold and don’t fit into the typical stereotype, as an entitled slacker with low emotional intelligence. (Pardon my bluntness, but so many articles I read these days are totally down on teens and twenty-somethings.)

Karen is an example of an uncommon student who sees the apparent pay-off for so many kids who get praised for the smallest of effort, somehow pass a grade in school even if they read at a fourth grade level, and who have an adult swoop in and save them whenever they fail. Indeed, it is enough to make a student with a good work ethic jealous.

Karen—allow me to speak very personally to you in this situation:

1. When you feel jealous, think long term. In the long run, students like you who do work hard and play by the rules will be in such better shape than entitled kids who have no work ethic. You’ll be ready for adulthood. In the end, we reap what we sow.

2. Count your blessings. I know this sounds old fashioned, but when you hate your life, reflect on all the good you’ve received or even earned. Things could always be worse and your happiness will expand as you focus on the good, not the bad.

3. Find someone—a friend, a mentor, a boss, a teacher or a leader—whom you can meet with and receive positive feedback. We all need encouragement, and if you get little of that at home, you must find it elsewhere. Keep your emotional tank full.

For the rest of this week, I will write about Outliers; kids who are different than others in Generation iY. Readers—what else would you say to Karen?



  1. Dr. Charlene Shannon on August 20, 2013 at 5:49 am

    As a faculty member teaching at a university, I see students similar to Karen who experience the same frustrations. Great advice provided here about thinking long term. Students like Karen are the ones who get better references (for graduate school; for a job). I get asked about work ethic and, in the last few years, about sense of entitlement and expectations. I get asked about my experiences with the student and my perception of students’ professionalism and maturity. The “Karens” get stronger references, hands down. When an organization is looking for a student representative on their board or to volunteer, students similar to Karen tend to get approached and can benefit from opportunities that are not afforded to everyone (e.g., chance to expand your personal or professional network, gain experience). If you are someone like Karen, I agree that you should definitely seek out an individual who will give meaningful, positive feedback or who can affirm you in other ways – for example, involving you in unique opportunities (e.g., asking for your feedback on something; inviting you to participate in a task in which your skills are needed or valued). And be sure not to overlook these gestures or opportunities – you are being appreciated (=rewarded) for hard work and playing by the rules.

    • Tim Elmore on August 20, 2013 at 10:41 am

      Charlene- I am so glad you also experience these students. The “Karens” are rare but so valuable to the future. Thank you for encouraging these students by giving them positive feedback through reference letters, opportunities, etc.

  2. charlene.fonseca on August 20, 2013 at 7:08 am

    Personally, students like you, Karen, are my absolute favorites. There is nothing that needs to be curtailed and all the options are open when it comes to the teaching and learning advantages for those like you.

    • Tim Elmore on August 20, 2013 at 10:48 am

      Absolutely! They truly are a joy, thanks for the comment!

  3. MichaelMcCarty on August 20, 2013 at 8:07 am

    As an Athletic Director at a University I have met students that are frustrated by watching others be rewarded even while doing evil. I always try to remind them that if they continue to do as God has directed them the blessings in the future will far out weigh what is coming to those who do evil. Psalms 37:7-9 says “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” Great reminder I think for students and us.

    • Tim Elmore on August 20, 2013 at 10:41 am

      Yes, that is a great reminder. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Michael!

  4. Leah Bischoff Turner on August 20, 2013 at 9:11 am

    I am so glad Tim, that your blog was an interest of one of my high school peers! What great topics. I am the parent of an “Outlier.” Rebecca is the oldest sibling and maintains good grades, actively does volunteer work, and runs cross country. Last year she ran cross country with a torn tendon (OUCH!) and only got very little notice in school despite the fact that she is a high A student and will be college bound. We can’t afford treats and teachers nominate her for things beyond what our family has the means to provide, which means she’s got to be creative about fundraising or she will miss out on participating. I’m totally okay with my sixteen year old missing out on a student ambassador program to Europe. She doesn’t have much “freedom/trust” either but as a parent who is so appreciative of the gift I have in Rebecca (and all four of our children) allowing Rebecca to have more freedom when even a minority (but an ever-growing one) are evolving into narcissistic predators who would take an opportunity to put something in a drink…it is an untenable argument for freedom for me if suddenly Rebecca (and Karen) could end up in a situation that as a parent, I can’t undo even though I am obligated and blessed with the responsibility of providing a “safety net.” It’s hard as a teenager to understand a parents motives and to recognize that their peers parents may be aware that if something happened and our child was hurt, hell hath no fury greater than a parent who’s child is the victim of abuse! Karen, kudos to you for being you!

  5. Guest poster on August 20, 2013 at 10:05 am

    I would ask Karen what rewards she feels she is missing. I would ask where those rewards fit with her values. I would encourage Karen to think about what rewards she wants. A young lady like Karen would probably figure out what was really important to her and be able to come to her own conclusion about her own sense of satisfaction. Good listening and good questions will help her sort through her own thoughts.

  6. Geri on August 20, 2013 at 10:28 am

    I have a daughter who shares many of the same frustrations as Karen. She is mature, hard working, aware of others, a leader on campus, and an excellent friend and student. She was particularly frustrated when she was not accepted to her first choice colleges this year while under – qualified student athletes and legacies did. I felt for her when she came to me and said, “I’ve done everything I was asked to do and more … why did I even bother?” And yes, we did discuss that in the long run, she will be better off as she is equipped with resilient qualities and an unentitled personality that will guide her to her life destination/happiness whatever that may be. Unfortunately for her (or maybe fortunately) we are not helicopter or travel team parents unlike most of her friends (and ours) parents. In the long run, I know she’s better off … but sometimes its difficult to convince a 17 year old of that.

  7. Judith Gifford on August 20, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Karen, You don’t know it yet, but you’re a LEADER. Carry On! Your peers NEED your example. Your harvest will come…take heart. Stand Tall. (From a former 19 year-old US Marine, who never understood my peers either. Semper Fi!)

    • charlene.fonseca on August 21, 2013 at 9:38 am

      Great answer. Wish I could “like” your comment!

    • Tim Elmore on August 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      I agree with Charlene.

  8. Aimee on August 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I think I would encourage Karen to search for the other outliers. They are out there, trust me. . . I am one! And I have stumbled into several others on my college campus. There are times that I feel alone, but really I’m not. And I think it’s important for us outliers to band together! 🙂

    • Tim Elmore on August 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      Great insight, Aimee. Thank you so much for sharing!

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Generation iY Students Who Don’t Fit the Mold