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Three Hurdles Kids Must Jump to Grow Up

In Friday’s blog I introduced three “hurdles” kids must jump in order to authentically grow up. Today, our culture actually makes growing up harder for young people. Over the next three days—I want to talk about these hurdles and what we can do, as caring adults in their lives.

Let me explain. When I was in junior high, I ran on our track team. I specifically remember trying out for the 100 yard, low-hurdle competition. Wow! It was so much harder than the 100-yard dash. There were these barriers in the way that kept slowing me down, distracting me from getting to my goal. I eventually gave up and became a long-distance runner. I guess I’m more of a tortoise than a hare. The hurdles, however, have proven to be a great picture of life for me. Hurdles were never meant to prevent a runner from moving forward. They do, however, require athletes to jump them in order to progress. This may sound cliché, but life presents hurdles, too, that kids must jump in order to grow up. And just like my track days, they can slow down the pace in which a student matures. Ironically, the hurdles they’re forced to jump are actually elements that make their lives painless and trouble free. Note to self: the easier life gets, the harder it is for us to develop the virtues that help us mature. Sadly, some people, young or old, never make it past them and remain childish, even into their adult years. Instead, we pursue a life that’s faster and easier. The world we’ve created today, through technology and automation, has unwittingly erected some major barriers to jump. They’re becoming more ominous every year. They actually make healthy maturity difficult. Immaturity has little to do with age; it has much to do with perspective and experience. Here is the first hurdle that young people must jump in order to authentically mature:

1. Hurdle One: Speed

The pace of life moves faster today than at any time in recorded history. Students grow up with an expectation of quick answers, fast results and immediate gratification. They have a “Google Reflex” that demands feedback within seconds. It’s not their fault. Adults created this world, but now we must find a way to enable them to wait; to reflect over time and to delay pleasures that usually come right away. It’s part of growing up.  While no one I know wants to return to life as it was a hundred years ago (when telephones didn’t even reside in every home), I will tell you what folks back then did possess: the virtue of patience. They could delay gratification. They expected to process thoughts; wait on others and season over time. Call it the art of the pause. As important as the answer is that we wait for, is the maturity that is happening in us while we wait. Authentic maturity takes time and requires patience. People don’t grow when everything comes to them quickly.

To overcome a dependence on speed: we must help students develop patience.

a.  Ask yourself: what new toy, product or goal do your students desire that could provide a teachable moment? Is there a way to do a countdown every day and talk over what they’ll do when they obtain it? Can you discuss the importance of building the virtue of patience and why that’s so important to growing up?

b. How about family vacation or a sports season your students are anticipating? Can you discuss it with them over the weeks and months leading up to it, helping them anticipate, in a healthy way, it’s arrival? Help them become conscious of the importance of delaying gratification and waiting for what is valuable.

I’d love for you to volley back your thoughts. Am I right? What else can adults do to combat the “Google Reflex” kids have today?

Tim

(This post is a “taste” of my new book, Artificial Maturity, which will be released next year. Stay tuned.)

3 Comments

  1. Mel on July 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Ok just brainstorming: one area where instant gratification comes is money and credit. I wonder if it would be more beneficial for young people to not have access to their own bank account until they prove they can use money wisely and save up for want they want. As they earn money while still at home, whether it be through working or doing house chores, they have to go through a process with parents before they can spent it. For example, parents ask them questions that help them to consider the value of what they want, it’s longterm effect, and so on. I see many students whose parents pay so much for their children’s wants and needs without giving them responsibility. Or they are not taught how to use their money wisely. So they easily fall into instant gratification with money. I recently had one teenager tell me how much she spent on herself with money she didn’t have and although her mum was angry with her, she didn’t really see it as a negative thing.

  2. Ernie Nackord on July 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    You mentioned something not often heard in the public square, and that is “virtue” when you referenced patience. I believe much of leadership and lesson-learning comes from imitation. A lot of parents are impatient. I see impatience in the workplace, eveything from demands of the quarterly financials, to people in the chow line in the company grubeteria.

    If we don’t set examples for kids, then all the verbiage and other forms of communication when trying to teach the virtues of patience, is just so much hot air.

    I c0ached high school baseball for a number of years and helped put myself through college as a flight instructor as well as ran a regional group health and pension office for a large insurance company where setting an example was the most credible form of patience-teaching.

    I’m sorry if this is disjointed, but this was as good a time as any to jump in, say hello and chip in with a couple of spare centavos.

    Keep ut the good workErnie Nackord

  3. Trent Thomas on July 19, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I teach high school and when my students come in the first day, I tell them that they entered a society. . .meaning that they must purchase things (with fake money) in order to use them.  For instance, they have to purchase their seat of choice.  This means they must save up (delayed gratification) a few weeks to get their seat of choice.  Good post!

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Three Hurdles Kids Must Jump to Grow Up