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Leadership Thought #429 – Concern For Our Kids…

March 22, 2013

Free Children Sitting on a Brown Wooden Bench in the Park Stock Photo

I’m very concerned about the artificial reality we are creating for kids today.  Everyone gets a medal or award. Disappointment and/or adversity is to be avoided at all costs.  We are also teaching our children that they are the center of the family universe and everything revolves around them: their needs, wants, etc.  If we let them to think everything they do is exceptional, then ultimately nothing they do will be.   We allow them to continually isolate themselves socially and retreat into the comfort of impersonal technological communication without the wisdom of understanding the dynamics of human and social interaction.  We worship their youth but then push them to grow up quickly and act more mature than they actually are (or should be).   It’s almost as if a whole generation of parents is trying to make up for perceived deficiencies from their own childhood.  We are forgetting how to be parents, coaches and teachers and instead striving to become friends, cheerleaders and positive psychologists.

I can readily see the impact of these misguided attitudes on younger employees entering the workforce today.  They are irreverent, have very poor work habits, expect rapid advancement and gratification, and struggle mightily when things don’t go their way.  Sure they care more deeply about things but only those things that interest them and their limited perception of reality rather than what actually constitutes the greater good.   They have strong albeit inexperienced opinions on issues  yet very rarely exhibit the courage of their convictions.    They often lack initiative or drive and expect things to just line up their way as it suits or interests them.   The more they get, they more they want, and less joy they derive from the privilege of receiving.

The goal of any society should be to secure the future of the next generation by providing them with the skills, talents and attitudes necessary for both survival and success.  It is a certainty that every generation will have to deal with some level of ambiguity and challenge as they assume responsibility for their own destiny (and that of others).   The world is becoming even more interconnected, complex and dynamic each and every day.   More not less will be required of the leaders in the future.  It won’t be enough for them to expect things to turn out okay.  They will have to make tough choices, manage conflict and exhibit the strength of personal character and judgment.

Our kids need to understand that things don’t always work out as planned and they must learn and grow from these experiences.   They need to appreciate that there is a direct correlation between effort and outcomes.  Hard work is not only required but should be valued.   It is critical that they respect the fact that that success requires the ability to be competitive and that winning by its very nature means that there will be losers (and different levels of rewards).  Moreover, critical thinking is more than just “googling” the answer.  They need to think through and be able to defend their opinions and positions with sound judgments and analysis.  Lastly, true growth and happiness in life requires some level of personal awareness and sacrifice including sometimes putting the needs of others first and forgoing short term gain.

Please don’t consider this just a rant, but a wake up call.  We are not doing our kids a favor by setting them up for disappointment and failure.  There aren’t enough therapists and proven medications to adequately address the issue nor should there be.  Life is a hero’s journey and the hero is born out of his/her ability to navigate the inevitable twists and turns along the journey.  It is also a function of an individual’s ability honestly look in the mirror and take responsibility for their actions and decisions.

In most cases, assuming the role of victim is a choice.  We will all confront adversity and experience loss throughout our lives.  And, we will either grow or wither as a result of this reality.   Parents (and other adults in a child’s life) will either build a strong or shaky foundation to help prepare them for their longer and more complex adult human experience.   Besides providing the basics of survival and creating a loving environment, our primary job as a parents is to foster and  create a sense of growing self-confidence and independence within our children coupled with positive character values including  a strong work ethic, personal humility and responsibility, respect and caring for others, and the need for  individual resilience/fortitude (regardless of what may happen).  I also include faith in this equation, but that is, of course, a personal choice.

For all of our kids, the holes in the safety net will only grow larger with time and they will need to chart their own course in the rocky seas of life…We do them (and society) a disservice to think otherwise.

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