Parenting in the Last Century

Over the next few days, I’d like to furnish some perspective on how leading students is different today than, let’s say, when I was a kid. It isn’t that the adolescent brain is different or their needs are different. Fundamentally, kids are kids no matter when they’re born, but their surroundings, expectations, and privileges are different today, requiring us to provide some intentional mentoring that wasn’t necessary fifty years ago. With the contrasts I see in the lives of tens of thousands of students each year, it’s no wonder our challenges seem more complex than ever. Below are two columns that compare and contrast the world of kids, fifty years ago and today.

Yesterday                             Today

1. Life is tedious.                                                        1. Life is relatively convenient.

2. Parents gave kids all they needed.                 2. Parents give kids all they want.

3. Answers came slowly with little tech.           3. Answers come quickly with high tech.

4. Children played outside all the time.            4. Children play inside most of the time.

5. Teens could hardly wait to drive a car.         5. Teens now wait to get their license.

6. Kids developed their imagination.                 6. Kids have games that imagine for them.

7. Expectation was to mature for work.            7. Expectation is to make good grades.

8. Stress was over nuclear war/polio.               8. Stress is over cyber-bullying/Facebook

9. Childhood innocence lasted until 12.            9. Childhood innocence lasts until 7.

10. Adulthood started at 17 or 18.                       10. Adulthood starts at about 26.

Let’s face it. We are leading our kids differently today. With more education and better research available, we are taking topics like self-esteem, safety and childhood happiness very seriously. Sadly, I see moms and dads all the time who work off of flawed research, or no research at all. They react instead of act. They imitate what other parents do instead of lead by principle. If their child gets in trouble at school, they march down to the school and confront the teacher instead of siding with the teacher and confronting the child, as in my parents’ day. In our effort to remove any kind of failure or pain or disappointment, we often create children who cannot negotiate life as adults. I believe your students have some timeless needs:

  1. A Self They Can Live With – They know who they are; identity is established
  2. A Faith They Can Live By – They have values and their spiritual life is in order
  3. A Purpose They Can Live For – They have a cause where they invest their gifts

Let me encourage you in two ways. First, don’t get overwhelmed by the different world they are growing up in today, and forget the fundamentals in your attempt to stay relevant. Second, don’t get lost in the new world of technology so much, that you miss the timeless needs kids still have.


Talk to me. Where do you struggle most as you lead students? Name your challenge.



Parenting in the Last Century