Search the site
huffington
foxfriendslogo-thumb

Change Our Minds About Kids: 6 Strategies to Right-Size Our Leadership

We must change our minds about kids. It’s time to rightsize our leadership. Perhaps one of these is a common scenario you’ve witnessed before:

Parents trying to control their children by filling their schedules with structure, rules and goals to meet. Their hope is—if they just push hard enough, their children won’t embarrass them or be underachievers.

Teachers trying so hard to be hip, cool and relevant in the classroom that they cause students to laugh at them. While the faculty members may be in midlife, they act as if they are “forever 21.” Everyone sees the incongruency except for them.

Coaches who try to lecture their way into the hearts of their young players. They often become frustrated that the attention spans of their student athletes are about four minutes long. It is the classic “old school” leader with a “new world” team.

These scenarios are far too common for my taste. It seems I find adults everywhere who throw their hands in the air in surrender. They don’t know how to lead, parent, coach, pastor or manage today’s “Generation iY” kids, who’ve grown up with iPods, iPhones, iTunes, iPads and the internet. So adults fail to lead at all. Since our world today is so different from the one we grew up in, we grownups frequently don’t make the jump to understanding and practicing good leadership with our kids.

So, what are we to do? How should we lead these kids?

May I talk straight? We have to change our minds about how to lead them. In fact, let me suggest six shifts we must make in our perspective in order to lead them well:

1. Don’t think CONTROL, think CONNECT.

Too often, our ambition as parents or teachers is to seize control. We want to govern every action and direct each step kids take as they play, study and work. Studies show that parents who over-program their kids’ schedules often breed teens who rebel. Why? They never get to truly be children. Let me remind you: Control is a myth. None of us are actually “in control.” Instead, effective leaders work to connect with students. Why? Because once we connect, we build a bridge of relationship that can bear the weight of hard truth. We earn our right to genuinely influence them.

2. Don’t think INFORM, think INTERPRET.

Consider this fact: This is the first generation of kids who don’t need adults to get information. It’s coming at them twenty-four hours a day, as they remain connected to their phones and laptops. They have lots of information; what they need from us is interpretation. Their knowledge has no context. They lack the wisdom that comes only from years of experience. Adults must help them make sense of all they know—help them interpret experiences, relationships, politics, work and faith via a wise, balanced lens. Discuss together what’s behind movie plots, books, technology. Teach them how to think. Our goal must be to provide them with a healthy worldview.

3. Don’t think ENTERTAIN, think EQUIP.

I’ve seen parents who become absolutely consumed with entertaining their children. There’s a website in my community that furnishes moms with places to go to keep their kids entertained and happy. I know teachers who approach their classrooms the same way. They want to be popular with students, so they do anything to keep kids entertained. I think a better perspective is this: How can I equip my young person for the future? If I give them relevant tools to succeed and get ahead, they’ll stay engaged. Happiness is a byproduct. We must move from busying them, so they’re happy…to enriching them, so they’re fulfilled. True satisfaction comes from growth.

4. Don’t think DO IT FOR THEM, think HELP THEM DO IT.

Adults have been committed to giving kids strong self-esteem for thirty years now. We wrongly assumed, though, that it would come from simply telling them they’re special and awesome. According to the American Psychological Association, healthy and robust self-esteem actually comes from achievement, not merely affirmation. In our attempt to provide everything they want, we’ve actually created a new kind of “at risk” child: middle-class and affluent children who are depressed because they didn’t really do anything to achieve their comfortable lifestyle. We must teach and parent for the long term, not the short term. Sure, it’s quicker for you as a parent to do things yourself—but it’s better to transfer a skill.

5. Don’t think PROTECT, think PREPARE.

Factors like child abductions, the Columbine High School massacre and the spread of terrorism have made adults paranoid about the safety of our kids. Schools, churches and homes take precautions to prevent anything bad from occurring: Helmets, kneepads, safety belts, background checks and cell phones protect kids from harm. Sadly, in our obsession over safety, we’ve failed to prepare them for adulthood. Most college students never graduate, and of those who do, most move back home. Instead of fearing for them, it’s better to recall your entrance into adulthood and discuss what you learned that helped you succeed. The greatest gift parents can give their children is the ability to get along without them.

6. Don’t think LECTURE, think LAB.

There’s no doubt about it—when our young people do wrong, the first thing we want to do is lecture them. It’s the quickest way to transmit an idea. It isn’t, though, the best way to transform a life. As adults, we must begin creating environments and experiences where young people can consider and process truths about life. There are life lessons to be found everywhere. Travel to new places, interaction with influential people, service projects, and even movies and amusements can be sources of discovery and discussion in preparation for their future. It works like science class—along with a lecture, there is a lab in which to actually experiment. This is what students long for.

Worldwide, psychologists are discovering the downside of our obsession over our kids’ self-esteem, safety and happiness. I am a leader, teacher and parent, and I want those things for all the young people I know. I am recognizing, however, that our strategies to reach these goals have been poor. I am suggesting that maybe, just maybe, we need to change our minds about how we lead our kids.

What’s the biggest change we need to make in how we lead kids today?

Artificial Maturity

16 Comments

  1. Josh on March 2, 2012 at 11:46 am

    First of all, thank you so much for what you do, and thank you for this post.  I needed to see this today.

    Second, I have a question.

    In all your research and experience, do you find that these principles of leading the next generation hold true across the varieties of Western cultural context?

    For example, I used to live in Tulsa, OK (and had the privilege of hearing Tim speak at my LifeChurch campus).  I was immersed in the youth culture as a music educator, and found  what you communicated to be dead on, highly relevant, highly applicable, etc.

    Now I’m located in rural south Georgia, in a tiny community (~7,500 in the entire county), with much of the culture stuck back in “the old days”.  Unfortunately, I’m currently disconnected from the younger culture here, and have no “front lines read” on how things are down here.

    Even in somewhat isolated areas like this — and even though the old folks manage to live in the past — can I expect these shifts in the youth culture to still have reached the Y generation here, despite the seeming disconnectedness of the community?

    I ask specifically because I’m planting a church here, with a deliberate strategic effort to reach the Y gen in this area.  I’m at the start of an effort to really understand the context, specifically with regards to the young people.

    • Tim Elmore on March 7, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      Great question! I find that these principles hold true not only across different areas of the United States but around the world. Internet access is the great equalizer. Wherever there are students who have access to the internet, the likelihood of them exhibiting similar Gen iY characteristics increases.

      Certainly students are influenced by their local culture and you will notice differences from the kids in south Georgia to the kids in Tulsa, OK. But, overall, I think these trends hold true in both contexts.

      That’s been my personal observation here in the US and around the world.

      I’d love to hear what others have seen.

  2. Jen on March 3, 2012 at 8:30 am

    GREAT INCITE!!!!

    • Steve on March 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      Just to make sure other readers do not read this and then misspell it in the future – it should be “great insight”.

      • Tim Elmore on March 7, 2012 at 12:53 pm

        Thanks Steve! I guess it could incite others? 🙂

    • Tim Elmore on March 7, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks Jen!

  3. Pierre Quinn on March 5, 2012 at 12:47 am

    One the first steps we can take is not seeing today’s culture as all wrong. The “back in my day” comments are often rooted in seeing the context that they we grew up in as better than the younger generation. Their culture is different. We shouldn’t look down own our young people just people they live in a different time with its own unique set of challenges and opportunities.

    • Tim Elmore on March 7, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      Great point, Pierre. It’s good to be reminded that different isn’t better or worse, just different. I believe that each student has a unique and important role to play. It’s our responsibility to lead them to discover and develop their strengths. 

  4. Lisa-Jo Baker on March 6, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Seriously, one of the most helpful things I’ve read on raising our kids into men and women who can lead their generation rather than just follow it. Thanks so much, Tim!

    • Tim Elmore on March 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm

       Thanks! Glad you found it helpful!

  5. aroma on March 9, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Refreshing indeed! Thank you Tim for this post.  Being involved with students,  i can clearly understand the challenge of ‘keeping up with the times’ in terms of our perception and understanding of today’s generation mindset, but honestly finding it not easy. This article couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time – for me at least. Thanks again!!!

    • Tim Elmore on March 12, 2012 at 8:14 am

      Glad you found it helpful! Thanks for commenting!

  6. Jughead451 on March 19, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Being the father of a teenager, I was quite moved after listening to your Generation iY CD’s. I believe that your assessment of today’s youth is unbiased and honest, and that you are accurate in your cause and effect analyses. Often finding myself in situations of frustration, your insight has allowed me to instead view these situations from more than just my own perspective–which leads to better understanding. I, myself, also greatly appreciate your evidently faith-oriented viewpoints. Thank you.
     
    Steve (Florida)

  7. Rosario Velasco on April 1, 2012 at 11:29 am

    TIM I DO LOVE ALL YOUR ARTICLES AND BELIEVE WE CAN DEVELOP GREAT COMMITTED LEADERS IF WE CONNECT AND SHOW THEM HOW
    THANKS FOR ALL THE GOOD YOU DO FOR THE WORLD
    IM IN MEXICO, MY COMPANY IS LIDERATO AND WOULD LOVE TO BE THERE WITH YOU AT THE FORUM ON JUNE
    I RUN A RADIO PROGRAM IN THE CENTER OF MEXICO FROM MEXICO STATE, MY HOMETOWN IS TOLUCA, SATURDAYS FROM 9 TO 11AM PLEASE LET ME USE YOUR MATERIAL TO SHARE IT WITH MANY PEOPLE THAT WILL NEED IT FOR THEIR LIVES

    YOU CAN HEAR IT ALIVE AND EVEN CALL TO SHARE INFORMATION AT http://WWW.RADIORAMA,MX SEARCHING FOR
    LA MEXICANA 1200 AM

    LOVE SINCERELY ROSARIO VELASCO

  8. Roger on July 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Just catching this re-post. Thanks for sharing this info, its relevant and simple enough to apply. Blessings to you and your family. You have one of the best dads in the world.

Leave a Comment





Continue Reading

Change Our Minds About Kids: 6 Strategies to Right-Size Our Leadership