What’s the DEAL with Kids Today?

Now that we’re over a month into a new year, I felt it was appropriate to ask you a question. Are you approaching your work with students in the right frame of mind? Centuries ago, Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not necessarily the truth.”

A typical teenage kid—whether in high school or in college—will develop into a different person depending on the leaders who shape him or her. I recently met Aiden, a senior in high school who was a fledgling at his former school. During his first two years of high school he was seen as a disengaged geek by his teachers and as a loser by his peers. Obviously, this affected how Aiden acted and what he expected of himself. When his family moved to a different school district, Aiden was able to make a fresh start. Interestingly, his grades improved, his status with friends skyrocketed, and the clubs he joined changed, which ultimately changed the very identity he embraced. Aiden was transformed—positively—when under a different set of influences and people.

We get to choose how we see our students and how we deal with them. By default, our culture often deals us a hand of cards that are less than optimal. Thanks to parents and portable devices and the programming of media, our young adults often appear to us as lazy slackers. Somehow we feel they’ve been dealt a bad hand. Without positive leadership, this is the DEAL we see in them:

What’s the DEAL with Our Kids Today?

photo credit: francisco_osorio University Life 265 via photopin (license)

D – Distracted (They lack focus due to portable devices and so many options.)

E – Entitled (They feel they deserve perks in life because of who they are.)

A – Apathetic (They’re often overwhelmed and become indifferent about the future.)

L – Languishing (They frequently languish and fail to stick with commitments.)

These four words are accurate descriptions of many adolescents today. And perhaps, they portray teens in every generation. Socrates once remarked that kids in his day were disrespectful and lacked ambition. Hmmm. Is there a pattern here?

But remember, we can determine to see them differently and expect different outcomes. If we could get past the surface of their different style and new approach to life and look more deeply at what’s inside, perhaps we could see their potential—not just their current performance. Maybe we could see their needs—not just their faults. I have found that students tend to live up or down to my expectations and treatment of them. If we changed how we saw and led them—then, perhaps, we could see a different DEAL:

What’s the DEAL with Our Kids Today?

D – Dedicated (They are able to keep commitments because they’re passionate.)

E – Enterprising (They find resourceful ways to reach their goals that we didn’t see.)

A – Ambitious (They’re passionate about life because they have a worthy mission.)

L – Leading (They’re not afraid to go first because they care about what they do.)

Someone once said, “Beware of the half truth. You may have gotten hold of the wrong half.” This is so very true in my life. So—in 2003, I decided to launch an organization called Growing Leaders, committed to a single mission: to help students identify the leadership qualities inside each of them and leverage them for good.

Some adults see our youth as a problem. We see them as a solution.

How do you see them as you launch 2017?

Looking to develop this DEAL in your students? Check out
Habitudes: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes

Habitudes helps students and young team members:

  • Break out of the herd mentality to influence others in positive ways.
  • Take initiative and set the pace for other teammates.
  • Overcome complex problems through creative persistence.
  • Capitalize on personal strengths to be career-ready upon graduation.

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What’s the DEAL with Kids Today?