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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Helping Our Kids Grow Up (Part I)

I just heard from an admissions staff member at Harvard University. He told me he interviewed a prospective student recently and had an unusual experience. During the interview the student would answer his questions, then look down after each one. The staff member assumed the student was just a bit shy. But, alas, it was something else. He was looking down at his phone. His mother was texting him the answers to each of the questions he was asked in the interview.

I have been musing for some time about a demographic group sociologists say has expanded worldwide. The years between 18-26 and even beyond have become a distinct life-stage — a strange, transitional never-never land between adolescence and adulthood — in which young people stall for a few extra years, putting off adult responsibility. They often stall after college. The percentage of 26-year-olds living with their parents has doubled since 1970.

Some demographers are worried. They fear that these young people won’t grow up because they can’t. They fear that whatever social machinery used to turn kids into adults has broken down. They also fear society no longer provides young people with the moral backbone and the financial wherewithal to take their rightful place in the adult world. Unwittingly, some parents won’t let their kid grow up.

So… What can we do to help?
Today and tomorrow, I plan to provide a handful of ideas that parents, employers, coaches, youth workers, or teachers can implement to help. Below is Part I of this list on how we can help these young adults get ready for life:

1. Help them identify their strengths and match their gifts with real-life work.
Use an assessment tool like “StrengthsQuest” or some other test to enable them to evaluate where they are strong. A clear sense of identity goes a long way in preparing a student for life. Once they know their strengths, personality, spiritual gifts, and style — give them assignments or responsibility that matches who they are.

2. Arrange interviews with CEOs who can field their questions and talk “turkey.”
Bring into your class or campus ministry to corporate leaders who can tell their story on how they got started, and field questions. Utilize local leaders in churches, businesses and counseling offices.

3. Encourage time limits on leisure activities.
Far too many young adults are addicted to PlayStation 2, Halo and other electronic games. Do I sound like a parent? These games are not horrible, but healthy accountability might help them stop wasting too much time on them.

Just four months ago, we published a book called, Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future. It’s a book full of research and solutions to this dilemma. I believe in this generation of kids — but I also believe we must rethink the way we’ve led them. To see the book or download some ideas, go to:

I will offer Part II of this list of ideas in tomorrow’s blog.



  1. lgrace2 on January 18, 2011 at 7:41 am

    I am a true believer in kids working during their high school years. This gives them a sense of independence and teaches them how to “work” in the real world. Kids are so consumed with sports and extracurricular activities during high school that parents sometimes don’t see the value in teaching their children how to work outside of school. Working a real job during the high school and college years gives kids a boost of self-esteem and confidence that will transition over into their college and post college years. I would encourage every parent to have their teenager get a part time job. I also think that a lot of the reason parents don’t insist their teen work is because it will actually cause a burden on their own schedule if they are the ones driving them to and from work. I would much rather be a chauffeur to my teen during her high school years then to have a post college child with no work experience and unprepared for life! Plus,the best time to talk to your teen is in the car! What a great opportunity to spend quality time with them!

    • Tim Elmore on January 21, 2011 at 11:12 am

      Thanks for your comments. I am in total agreement. Teens need work experience. In fact, it is likely the best extra-curricular activity, far more important than so many virtual or school activities they get involved. I just returned from College of the Ozarks. What an amazing place. I plan to blog about it next week. Students don’t have to pay any money for thier education — but they work for it. Every one of them. They call the school: Hard Work U. I have seldom seen such courteous, mature, grateful, or hungry students anywhere. I think there is a connection.

  2. Kevin East on January 18, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Yes! Help young people discover their God-given wiring so you can launch them out of the nest someday. I work with far too many college students that have been pampered their entire life. They struggle hard at making the transition out of college.

    • Tim Elmore on January 21, 2011 at 11:13 am

      Kevin — It is true. I’ve had students tell me they’ve struggled with growing up and transitioning out of college and into the working world. Thanks for sharing!

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Helping Our Kids Grow Up (Part I)