Are we creating helpless kids?
We hear a great deal about the current generation of students, what they can and what they cannot do. What they are prepared for and what they are not prepared for. Last month I read an article by author and journalist Mickey Goodman titled “Are we raising a generation of helpless Kids” then attended a conference session last week led by Chad Foster author of the book “Teenagers Preparing for the Real World”.
Both centered on a few basic principles that today’s youth may be missing. Communication skills are at the top of the list. Foster claims that we need to stress to students the importance of the “art of conversation” and that doing so does not constitute punching a cell phone with their thumbs. He believes it begins with developing writing skills and enhancing listening skills. I couldn’t agree more. If a young person is not able to write, listen and question, they will not be able to develop the networking skills necessary to get ahead in today’s society. We must teach students these skills in school and at home! Foster also believes that public speaking is a lost skill with our youth. Again, due to the lack of time kids spend on having conversations.
Foster’s book contains valuable messages, delivered with engaging and entertaining stories. The book serves as a motivation for students to pursue dreams, value education, explore careers, make good choices, overcome obstacles and engage in community service. Might want to check it out and have your kids read it, my kids will be!!
Goodman’s article gives a harsher perspective. She points out that the "Gen Y (and iY) kids born between 1984 and 2002 have grown up in an age of instant gratification. iPhones, iPads, instant messaging and immediate access to data is at their fingertips," Goodman states "Their grades in school are often negotiated by parents rather than earned and they are praised for accomplishing little. They have hundreds of Facebook and Twitter 'friends,' but often few real connections." Sound familiar to you?
Goodman continues by asking this, “Why have parents shifted from teaching self-reliance to becoming hovering helicopter parents who want to protect their children at all costs?” For many youth, the well intentioned message of “you are special” has come back to haunt all of us. In the article Goodman refers to Tim Elmore, founder and president of a non-profit, Growing Leaders organization. Elmore goes on to say "We are consumed with protecting them instead of preparing them for the future. We haven't let them fall, fail and fear. The problem is that if they don't take risks early on like climbing the monkey bars and possibly falling off, they are fearful of every new endeavor at age 29." Have we and are we creating a generation that relies on external, instead of internal motivation?
Goodman and Elmore give these facts (quoting from the article):
• We've told our kids to dream big - and now any small act seems insignificant. In the great scheme of things, kids can't instantly change the world. They have to take small, first steps - which seem like no progress at all to them. Nothing short of instant fame is good enough. "It's time we tell them that doing great things starts with accomplishing small goals.”
• We've told our kids that they are special - for no reason, even though they didn't display excellent character or skill, and now they demand special treatment. The problem is that kids assumed they didn't have to do anything special in order to be special.
• We gave our kids every comfort - and now they can't delay gratification. And we heard the message loud and clear. We, too, pace in front of the microwave, become angry when things don't go our way at work, rage at traffic. "Now it's time to relay the importance of waiting for the things we want, deferring to the wishes of others and surrendering personal desires in the pursuit of something bigger than 'me'"
• We made our kid's happiness a central goal - and now it's difficult for them to generate happiness -- the by-product of living a meaningful life. "It's time we tell them that our goal is to enable them to discover their gifts, passions and purposes in life so they can help others. Happiness comes as a result."
The uncomfortable solutions according to Elmore: "We need to let our kids fail at 12 - which is far better than at 42," he says. "We need to tell them the truth (with grace) that the notion of 'you can do anything you want' is not necessarily true." Kids need to align their dreams with their gifts. Every girl with a lovely voice won't sing at the Met; every Little League baseball star won't play for the major leagues. Allow them to get into trouble and accept the consequences. It's okay to make a "C-." Next time, they'll try harder to make an "A". Balance autonomy with responsibility. If your son borrows the car, he also has to re-fill the tank. Collaborate with the teacher, but don't do the work for your child. If he fails a test, let him take the consequences. "We need to become velvet bricks," Elmore says, "soft on the outside and hard on the inside and allow children to fail while they are young in order to succeed when they are adults."
I hope you find this information as interesting (and scary) as I did. Albert Einstein once quoted “In the middle of adversity lies opportunity.” Let’s find the opportunity to make this better, because it is not the OUT look, but the UP look that matters.
Until next time,
Principal – Spearfish High School