Whenever you see a student who is struggling with their attitudes or behavior, you can almost bank on the fact that they’ve experienced imbalanced leadership, from their parents or teachers, or coaches, pastors or employers. When there’s trouble, most likely they have received too little or too much. Examine these factors:
1. Abandonment – Caring adults have been absent, either physically or emotionally. They have not provided the tools and training a young person needs to develop.
2. Abundance – Caring adults have provided too much for the young person; too much protection, too many possessions or affirmation for them to develop.
Either way, the student is unable to mature. My theory is—adults must balance the distribution of these elements for a student to develop in a balanced fashion:
1. Autonomy – The privilege to self-regulate and act independently from others.
2. Responsibility – The ability to manage the resources they’ve been given well.
3. Information – The data they receive in relation to their maturity.
For instance, many teens want autonomy without responsibility. They want the car keys, the cell phone, the credit card before they’re ready to act responsibly with them. Further, sometimes adults give students information before they are ready to act on it or apply it. Once in a while, a student is afraid of autonomy; they want to remain at home with mom. The bottom line? When one of these comes to early or too late, there can be problems.
May I introduce you to a student who’s developed in such a balanced way, she stands as an example of what’s possible in students when they’ve been led well.
Courtney McClane is one of our summer interns. She is a top-seeded NCAA doubles tennis player from the University of Alabama. Courtney is a beautiful young woman who was just honored as an Academic All-American. She finished her Bachelors degree in three years, a 4.0 student and will take the fourth year of her tennis scholarship to work on her graduate degree. She is a poised, confident and relational student whom we are proud to have on our team this summer. She reminds me of what is possible when a student with talent and intelligence is given good leadership.
Let me ask you a question. When you ponder the students around you—have they been stunted by either abandonment or abundance? Have you distributed autonomy, responsibility and information as they’ve matured under your nose?
May you perform this balancing act with your students.