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Two New Parenting Styles Bonus Video
Watch Your Free Video
Want to learn more about the final two parenting styles? Watch the free video at the link below where Tim Elmore elaborates on them and how you can become the healthy parent that your children need.
The Ostrich Parent
Today, too many parents simply don’t have the time or the patience to understand the realities their teens are experiencing. Too often, they disengage from even trying to do so, simply leveling the rules their parents gave to them as a kid. Like an Ostrich, they can stick their head in the sand and miss things. They fail to be intentional as they lead their children. Maybe they don’t even want to know the details going on—out of fear. Or, knowing the reality would require greater leadership. Perhaps they’re too busy or just too tired to work at understanding a 21st century teen. Somehow, they figure what they don’t know won’t hurt them. It might, however, hurt their kids. Those kids feel they are leaderless. To be fair, usually, this parent or is simply overwhelmed with life’s demands. They’re in survival mode and feel badly when reminded they’re not doing a good job leading their child. Consequently, they choose to stay engaged in an area they’re familiar with (and feel comfortable in) rather than learn the unknown world in which their young person is growing up.
The problem: Kids are left to navigate this new world of anxiety and social media without a guide.
The issue: Many of these parents are simply preoccupied with their own lives. Many homes are either single parent homes or double-income homes, where parents are consumed with making a living rather than molding a life. It’s understandable. While the issue may be the adults don’t know enough about the current teen culture, the sad truth is they are too afraid or too busy to ask. In our 2016 focus groups we heard a large percentage of teens say their moms are enthralled with their own social media feeds and seemed to be oblivious to their kids. One teen said, “I never talk to my mom when I get home from school. She’s on Facebook all the time.” Others flatly told us, “My parents have no idea what my life is like…especially at night.” Long after Mom and Dad have said goodnight, their teen is on YouTube, scrolling through social media posts and more. The parents might as well be Ostriches. This is a reality for too many Generation Z students.
So, what’s the remedy to the Ostrich Parent?
The Owl Parent
As I travel and meet thousands of educators, coaches, parents, and youth workers each year, I find they usually fit into one of two camps:
– The Ostrich (which we’ve introduced above)
– The Owl (which has a completely different reputation)
These two birds have become symbols of two different approaches to life. As I have discussed earlier, the ostrich has come to represent folly. Over the years, people have believed that the ostrich buries its head in the sand when it’s afraid or wants to hide. While this is actually a myth, we’ve come to compare it to this tendency in humans. Woodrow Wilson compared American foreign policy to the bird: “America cannot be an ostrich with its head in the sand.” H. G. Wells wrote, “Every time Europe looks across the Atlantic to see the American eagle, it observes the rear end of an ostrich.”
In contrast, the owl symbolizes a completely different approach to life. The owl is most alert at night, when danger lurks. It can rotate its head 360 degrees to see any and all movement occurring. Because it’s always on watch, it has developed acute hearing and keen eyesight, even in the dark . . . perhaps, especially in the dark. Owls are nocturnal and are known for their distinct calls to other birds and species. Most of all, owls have become symbols of wisdom and nobility.
With that in mind, I’m merely posing a question: Which are you—an owl or an ostrich?
Do you have a tendency to hide from bad news or dangerous trends, not wanting to face reality? Do you “bury your head in the sand,” wanting to escape the necessary changes we must make to prepare kids for the future? Do you hide behind noise and clutter? Do you get lost in routines, hoping to merely survive each school year?
Or—do you do your best work in the dark? Are you alert and observing what’s happening all around you in culture and among students today? Do you possess the wisdom to address dangerous patterns in kids, helping them to rise above addictive behavior, risk aversion, self-absorption, anxiety, depression and entitlement?
Do you run to the roar . . . or from the roar?
As I’ve been exposed to leaders in all walks of life, I’ve found that we tend to be either an ostrich or an owl. We choose to play defense or offense when it comes to preparing our kids for the world that awaits them. I am not a pessimist, but I do believe our culture has done a number on today’s generation of kids. We do live in dark times, where they finish school unprepared to achieve success in our global economy.
As cliché as this may sound, we must be owls, standing watch in our culture:
1. Stay alert in dark and dangerous times. Keep current on cultural stats.
2. Monitor their social media accounts (a variety of platforms allow you to do this).
3. Plan weekly date nights or weekend dates, where you spend one-on-one time with them.
4. Observe patterns and diagnose trends in your kids’ behavior. Are they anxious or aloof?
5. Establish nightly phone curfews, where they must turn in their mobile devices after hours.
6. When you buy them a new phone, have them sign a “phone contract” with boundaries.
7. Schedule plenty of face-to-face social activities to foster relationship skills.
8. Stay in touch with your colleagues, communicating what needs to be done.
No doubt there are millions of healthy parents around the U.S. yet, each of us leans toward one of these styles above—to some degree. I believe healthy leadership from healthy parents produces healthy students who become healthy leaders themselves. Today, more than ever, kids need healthy, engaged parents leading their homes; adults who are both timely and timeless. By this I mean the parent or teacher who understands the realities of today’s culture and their kids’ needs to prepare for adulthood—while at the same time relaying the timeless values and skills their kids will need in whatever time period they will live. This is central to good leadership today: to be timely and timeless. I am haunted by the truth that James Baldwin once penned: “Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
Owls are widely believed to have the best night vision in the animal kingdom. May that be said of us as we lead our kids into adulthood. I’m voting that we parents become the healthy mentors our kids need as we lead lives worth imitating. Let’s stop spending time preparing the path for the child and start preparing the child for the path.
BONUS: The Parent Engagement Scale
For a helpful instrument to enable you to evaluate your engagement in key areas of your child’s life, sign up to view the short video and receive The Parent Engagement Scale. Minimally, the tool will allow you to discuss with your spouse or your child where changes might be helpful. Click here to sign up.