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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


What’s Your End Game?

Here’s a question every teacher, coach and parent should ask themselves:

What’s the end game as I lead my students? My athletes? My kids?


end game

Seriously. How do you know if you’ve done your job well? What’s a “win” for you? If it’s simply teaching a subject, building an athletic skill or nurturing them, then we have done a stellar job. Kids today are well-educated, better at sports and believe they’re very special. We’ve definitely nurtured this generation of young people. Some say we’ve wrapped them in bubble wrap and put a helmet on them.

But if the end-game is preparing them to live without help—then we’ve failed. If our ultimate goal is self-regulation and independence, we’ve done a miserable job.

Young Adults Still Depending on Mom and Dad

New research is out—and the evidence is clear. In 2012, 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31—the Millennial generation—were living in their parents’ home, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. This is the highest share in at least four decades and represents a slow but steady increase over the 32% of their same-aged counterparts who were living at home prior to the Great Recession in 2007 and the 34% doing so when it officially ended in 2009.

A record total of 21.6 million Millennials lived in their parents’ home in 2012, up from 18.5 million of their same aged counterparts in 2007.  The males of the Millennial generation are more likely than the women to be living with their parents—40% versus 32%—continuing a long-term gender gap in the share of young adults who do so.

Now I know what you’re thinking. The economy is bad. Jobs are scarce. Money is tight, and perhaps a twenty-something can save more when living in their parents’ basement. Perhaps—if that is, indeed, what they’re doing. But here’s what we’re finding. Both females and males seem to be moving back home after college—the latest number is 85% of last year’s senior class planned on moving back home when they finished school. The difference is, the females moved back home with an exit plan. The males moved back home…with no plan.

A New End Game

May I suggest a new objective for you? I believe our end game is to prepare these young people to live without us; to work, to play, to grow and to thrive on their own. So how do we do this? How do we prepare them for their future?

1. Establish an expectation – Let them know when they need to be on their own.

2. Identify a strength – Help them find their natural strengths and play to them.

3. Cultivate a skill – Enable them to turn their strength into a valuable skill.

4. Provide a network – Introduce them to key people you know who can help them.

5. Furnish a compass – Show them how to make good trade-offs and decisions.

6. Give them a deadline – Set a date that they must be ready to move on and out.

Ultimately, love doesn’t coddle, it cultivates. If we love our students, we will do everything in our power to equip them for the future. It has little to do with our need for love or our need to be needed. It has everything to do with their need to be self-reliant and on their own. This is our measuring stick.

Talk to me. Am I too tough on them? Am I being too tough on adults?



  1. Timothy Lynn Burchfield on August 12, 2013 at 7:19 am


    You sound a little idealistic. My children are 30, 28, 23 & 20. The older two are living on their own sort of. My 30 year old has paid his way since he was 10. My 28 year old is for the most part on her own. She had a hard time launching and we funded her too much to launch in my opinion. My 23 year old will graduate this December and begin her journey. She will be fine and live on her own like my oldest son. My 20 year old is a junior in college and more than happy to accept any and all funding we will provide.
    All of my children have been require to work in my business since they were 14. Our goal was to allow them to graduate from college with no loans and begin at zero.
    At the ned of the day they are all still our children. All four are different. We can be firm and stand our ground and in the process loose our children. Or, we can help them understand all of the things you described in your blog and launch.
    Pray for wisdom is the only advice I can offer nearing the end of raising four.
    I am interested in the ages of your children?
    Your advice sounds like a person who has not walked that road yet!

    • Tim Elmore on August 13, 2013 at 7:34 am

      My two kids are younger than yours but both adults. Our oldest is 25 and on her own, working in another state. Our youngest is 21 and finishing his general education before moving to CA to finish college. Both took a “gap year” between high school and college and got a taste of the “real world” (working world) then moved into college, hopefully more ready than if they’d gone straight from high school to college. But my view comes not only from my own parenting experience. I get to be in front of tens of thousands of students each year. I believe they are capable of much more than they are demonstrating. A hundred years ago, 14 year olds were working farms, 17 year olds were leading armies and 19 year olds were getting married and having children. I am not suggesting we return to that model…just that it is in adolescents to do more than get lost on Facebook and Twitter. They are great kids, who’ve lived in a world where we’ve allowed their life skills to atrophy.

  2. Timothy Lynn Burchfield on August 13, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I love what you are doing and what you are talking about. These are very choppy waters and I tend to think just like it was “back in the day” when our parents sent us out at much earlier ages. I was sent out at an early age and never returned. In my case there was no one to ask.
    I could be falsely dreaming of a day when they return to visit without agendas and financial needs. I have great kids and I will do everything to help them become established and make a difference. I don’t feel we have done anything more than try to offer them a better life than we had growing up.
    I’m glad my kids don’t have to work three jobs. I’m glad my kids did not have to work in the “dish room” in order to get school lunch.
    I am like you. I want to explore how to have “high tech” and “high touch” conversations to capture both their mind and their heart for Jesus.
    And oh by the way! Everybody works around here.

  3. Rebecca on August 17, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Tim, how do you teach self regulation? I have a mid teen boy who cannot regulated his gaming. Is my expectation too high?

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What’s Your End Game?