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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


The Lost Art of Resourcefulness

resourcefulMy daughter graduated from college a year ago. Her plans were clear. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she wanted to get her master’s degree and become a counselor. I loved her ambition.

So she asked if she could move back home and save money to pay tuition for this second degree. I said yes, but with one stipulation: she’d make payments for living at home with her parents. (After some difficult conversations—she’s doing it.)

Along the way, I have learned a valuable lesson as a dad, a leader and an educator. Because I love my daughter, I find myself making life easier for her, buying her a new laptop for the schooling ahead, a new pair of jeans, giving her petty cash, some perks here and there. It’s natural. I’m her father.  But I noticed a principle in action:

The more I do for her, the less resourceful she has to be, and the less ready she is for life away from home.

Resourcefulness is actually a mark of maturity. When I finished college, moving home wasn’t an option. Suddenly, I had to be resourceful—with my money, my time, my furniture choices, my grocery shopping, staggering my bill payments, everything. Knowing my mom and dad loved and supported me, I was positively challenged to make it all happen. I didn’t expect them to do it for me. I grew up. I got resourceful.

You’ve read the statistics before—the vast majority of students last year planned on moving back home when they finished with college. The number was 80%. While I understand the economy is bad, I wonder if allowing this postpones the development of their resourcefulness. It’s no wonder they move back home—they don’t want to have to start at the bottom of the career ladder, eat macaroni and cheese everyday, and use cinder blocks for a coffee table. But that’s what deepens our constitution inside. Suddenly, young people:

  • Learn to adjust their expectations,
  • Decide what they REALLY need in order to live,
  • Become grateful for even little blessings,
  • Become skilled at planning ahead,
  • Find that they can delay gratification.

For those of us who lead young people—stop and think the next time you’re prone to give them something or do something for them. It may feel like “love and support” at the time, but is it really? Would real love and support better be expressed through helping them figure out how they can be resourceful and do it themselves, even if it takes a lot longer?

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of this topic. When it comes to equipping students with resourcefulness, which side do you find yourself on?

Artificial Maturity


  1. Patrick L. on July 9, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I absolutely agree Tim! I am an LCPC who works primarily with adolescent males and your blogs and ideas are dead-on and need to be put into practice! Thank you for articulating what needs to be said.

    • Tim Elmore on July 9, 2012 at 11:05 pm

      Thanks for the feedback! Glad you found it helpful.

  2. Aimee McBroom on July 9, 2012 at 11:50 am

    As someone who falls into the “young person” catergory, I have to say that I agree! My family has struggled finacially a lot, so resourcesfulness is sort or a lifestyle for me. There have been times when I wanted to do or buy something, and I’ve had to work for it. My mom has helped me raise money for 3 mission trips, but they made it clear that they wouldn’t be footing the bill. I buy all my own clothes, shoes and some of my own groceries (I have a food allegry). Sure there have been times when maybe I wished that it didn’t have to be this way, but in the long run it has prepared me for the life of a broke college student! 🙂

    • Tim Elmore on July 9, 2012 at 11:05 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story, Aimee. Great example!

  3. Jackie on July 10, 2012 at 10:24 am

    My current college student kids were raised for 6 years in a developing country. Not only did they learn to live without wants they learned the value of what they have. One son is married and takes his responsibility to provide for his wife very seriously. He works to get good grades and scholarships. He budgets down to the penny. The other junior in college home for summer weekends when off work at his camp job refuses to let us pay for much more than cloths and food. I borrowed and filled the tank. He was overwhelmingly grateful. He bought a desk top computer in order to use screen wisely and save $. The 3 remaining teens at home struggle with delayed gratification. Peers have, do…much harder to teach them in this culture. It gets grinding and frustrating. This mom is not giving in and refocuses on gratitude instead.

    • Tim Elmore on July 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing! You sound like a wonderful mom with great kids.

  4. Connie on July 10, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Where I agree with the main points of this blog, I must admit I struggle with some of it; being an older adult who needed to move home once taking a job at church. Whereas I took a pay cut of almost half of what I was making when living on my own and working in Corporate America, I was no longer able to pay my way.

    At this point I am paying my way in many ways (but only after paying off debt and getting a few raises), but in other ways it seems hopeless of that ever being a possibility as long as I work in the Christian market. I struggle a lot with not being able to pay my own way, and reading this continues the struggle, not in a bad way persay, but it makes me wonder what is spiritual Sacrifice for the good of God and furthering his commission and what is lack of discipline.

  5. Debbie Christian on July 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I love this article, I have a hard time not giving my kids everything making them work for things. But my 2 oldest children now 28 married and 19 second year college student have come to be very resourceful, My son collected popcans last year at college for his spending money besides working a job and takng a full load of classes, he was so excited when other students would bring him pop cans. then he figured out he could cash them in at a store that gave him 5 cents off gas and if you paid cash you got off another 5 cents. My 16 year old was taking his girlfrined on a date recnetly and was serching the web for coupons, When I see these things it helps me to realize they are starting to get it, and don’t expect everything from us, good reminder not to give in if I feel pressure from my peers to give them things just because. It is very hard because kids have so much these days. But the joy in my son face when he comes in and tells me that his truck (he bought for 750.00 with his own money) just hit 222,222.00 miles . And he is excited it is still going after 3 years.

    • Tim Elmore on July 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm

      Thanks for sharing Debbie. I hope your stories will encourage other parents.

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The Lost Art of Resourcefulness