Will We Ever Let Them Go: Part Two

It’s not uncommon to hear negative generalizations about today’s young adults (AKA millennials). There’s a lot of blaming going around, but have we ever stopped to ask ourselves what our role might be? Or, what improvements we can make to their training? Today’s post is part two in our four-part series about equipping and fostering success in young people, with a special message to secondary school educators. If you missed our post for parents earlier in the week, you can find it here. Or, you can access the entire article at the bottom of this post.

Today’s secondary schools face enormous challenges in covering all the bases and setting students up for life success. In addition to their core education efforts, our teachers also deal with tremendous regulatory demands and increasingly fragmented families. As a former school board chair and educator, I honor their tireless investment in our younger generation.

Importantly, our secondary educators play a vital role in preparing their graduates for college, career, and life. So, it’s appropriate to consider their influence on the general state of our young adults. In doing so, I’ll approach it as an advocate for two key constituencies: the students themselves and the institutions receiving their graduates (most notably, colleges and employers).

Importantly, secondary students are not in a position to advocate for themselves, and they assume they are receiving the education and training they need for life. And, why not? Meanwhile, our colleges and employers assume their students will arrive prepared for college, career, and life. Again, why not?

However, it is clear from our weak college graduation statistics and the feedback from universities and employers, that these assumptions are often erroneous. Far too many students are dropping out and/or lacking the basic skills that employers are seeking. So, while many students are book smart, signs are they’re not always life smart. This is a predictable outcome when leadership development and practical training occupy a secondary role in our schools.  In too many cases, student training is neither holistic nor sustainable.

With all that in mind, I respectfully offer the following recommendations to secondary school educators who are serving our today’s students today and tomorrow’s collegians and employees:

  1. Develop and implement a comprehensive vision for a well-prepared graduate for life. My favorite Stephen Covey habit is “Begin with the end in mind.” Importantly, it applies just as much to organizations (like schools) as it does to people. However, in my years of speaking at schools and conferences, I have never witnessed more than 10% of the audience state that their school has defined a well-prepared graduate. Never. This is an urgent priority because it frames everything. What skills, character attributes, and knowledge do our graduates need to succeed in life? That our employers and universities desire? We must know this.
  2. Create the necessary pathways and programs to implement this vision for all This will likely involve new courses, reprioritization, and integration of concepts (e.g., leadership).
  3. Require leadership and life skills courses for all students. These courses, often under the purview of FCS and CTE (Family/Consumer Science and Career and Technical Education) are simply too important to be considered electives. In addition to leadership and character skill building, all students should receive practical education in post-secondary preparation, career readiness, communication and relationship building, financial management, citizenship, manners, and self awareness. We can no longer assume that our students are learning these vital skills at home. (In too many cases they are not!) This will likely involve some reprioritization of other courses to make room for these essential topics. The keywords are “holistic,” “relevant,” and “sustainable.”
  4. Dispense with the “college or bust” mentality. The significant first-year college dropout rate reveals the unintended consequence of an overemphasis on college as the immediate next step. For many high school students, other options such as employment, vocational schools, community college, trade schools, a gap year, and military or service are better fitting options. These are not “second rate” choices.
  5. Prepare all students for a professional environment. Among the biggest complaints about today’s younger workers involve their casual written and oral communications and manners. Clearly, this is an adverse consequence of today’s tech-laden world. Communication is such a success driver in life, and, it deserves to be a greater priority in our schools. Also, courses in entrepreneurship, that would expose students to all aspects of managing an organization, would be beneficial. While the latest rage is STEM (or is it STEAM…?), it’s important to recognize that most jobs, even in those types of organizations, do NOT require advanced math and technical degrees. Let’s remember that as we develop our course menus and requirements.
  6. Promote leadership and character, and reward students accordingly. So often, academics and athletics command the greatest award attention in our schools. Ask most employers and they’ll gladly prefer a 3.5 GPA with great character to a 3.9 with little else. How many leadership and character awards are offered in your school?
  7. Cease with the grade inflation. This form of coddling proves to be a short-lived source of self esteem when students face the reality of competitive environments like college and the workplace. Let’s be honest, we’re doing them no favors.

 

Teachers, we are so grateful for you and your tireless efforts. Keep up the good work as we all work together and learn from each other, mastering our roles as “next generation equippers.”

 

Next week we will address this topic with college/university educators, as well as employers. If you’re interested in gaining access to all four parts of the article, you can find it here.

Will We Ever Let Them Go: Part One

Like most of you, I hate stereotypes and generalizations. They’re unfair and usually do more harm than good. It’s why I’m not a fan of “bucketizing” people into this/that gender/age/ethnicity/economic/religious/political category. To me, the main “fruit” of these efforts is disunity.

But, at the risk of not taking my own advice, I’d like to weigh in on the conversation about a group that is perhaps more stereotyped than any these days. . . Millennials. Having raised two of our own and as an author/publisher/mentor/educator devoted to training up our next generation, I feel a special bond toward them. But, judging by what I read and hear, it’s as though their foreheads are etched with a “scarlet M.”

You’ve likely heard their negative labels: entitled, lazy, fragile, impatient, narcissistic, distractible, relationally challenged, needful, and the like. Hopefully, you’ve also heard the positive: passionate, creative, connected, entrepreneurial, idealistic, and globally minded. (As a product of the Sixties and Seventies, it makes me wonder what was said about us!)

But, here’s the deal: IF some of the negative stereotypes of Millennials have some merit, I don’t believe it’s only (or even primarily) because of them. Much of that responsibility lies with us—the generation that has parented and trained them. By all accounts, we are not equipping them as fully as we should—not parents, not schools, and in some cases, not employers. We’re also struggling to let go. Big time!

Too often, instead of releasing eagles to soar with confidence, we’re releasing young adults that we continue to control, coddle, or inadequately equip. Generally speaking, we’re not providing the practical, relevant, holistic training they need to succeed in adult life, and it’s showing. I believe this is attributable to several factors: 1) parents and educators assuming the other is covering the training (e.g., finance, soft skills) so it falls through the cracks, 2) consequences of the breakdown of the American family, and 3) educators focusing more on training the mind than the whole person for adulthood. It’s no wonder that the stage of adolescence continues to grow. And grow.

That’s on us. And, we need to do better. For them.

So, for the rest of this blog series, I’ll be offering my recommendations—to parents, secondary school educators, colleges, and employers—to help set our younger generation up for real world success. Due to space limitations, it’s an incomplete view, so I’ll focus on my best ideas.

In this first post, I’ll address my thoughts to parents. After that, I’ll concentrate on secondary school and college educators, and finally, employers. We all have a stake in this game. I’m sure you can add to my ideas, and you might even disagree with some of my views. I welcome your contributions. That’s what makes it a conversation!

 

To Parents:

We all want our children to be happy and successful, but sometimes we get in their own way. In fact, discussions with those receiving our high school graduates (e.g., universities and employers) reveal the downside of helicoptering, performance parenting, excessive coddling, and absentee parenting: students struggling with self confidence and coping with the demands of adulthood. Consequently, parents are calling professors to complain about grades. Parents are calling employers to complain about their “kids” being overworked and underpaid. Parents are even coming to job interviews! Many parents are so invested in their children’s success that they won’t let go. Is it any wonder so many young adults are having difficulty growing up?

With that, here are some suggestions for raising our parenting bar and releasing a new generation of well-prepared and confident leaders:

  1. Adopt an empowering parenting vision and mindset: what if we replaced “raising children” with “raising future adults?” This mindshift can make a world of difference. In our book on this topic, Parenting for the Launch, we call it, “giving them wings, not strings” and “moving from driver seat to passenger seat.”
  2. Emphasize character and “soft skills” over performance. Success in career and life requires a solid leadership foundation made up of qualities like integrity, reliability, high standards, kindness, respect, other-centeredness, work ethic, humility, positivity, and manners. It also requires attributes like self control, resilience, interpersonal skill, decision-making, time management, and communication. These are sustainable leadership qualities. Where are we placing our emphasis?
  3. Invest in your relationship. It takes both quality and quantity time to build a relationship that endures. “I didn’t spend enough time with my children” is an all-too-common regret you never want to experience! Stay fully engaged.
  4. Surround them with positive influences and adult role models and mentors. Use every opportunity to introduce them to great people! These invaluable third party voices offer friendship, wisdom, and connections to help grow their network. It also builds communication skills and respect for adults.
  5. Help them build self awareness. In the teen and young adult years, it’s critical to understand one’s assets, nature, and passions. Parents can contribute valuable insights that instill vision, belief, hope, and a sense of value.
  6. Encourage them to stretch themselves and take risks, even if they may not succeed. Help them embrace new experiences and challenges. Regardless of the outcome, winning is in the journey. Build a “Go for it!” attitude..
  7. Limit their use of technology and impose tech-free zones during family times. Be highly attentive to the addictive tendencies of technology, especially if it starts to affect their relationships, communication, and productivity.  And, don’t let devices and TV serve as a “babysitter.”
  8. Be strategic about preventing some of the common stereotypes. That means promoting a strong work ethic (chores help!), instilling other centeredness (volunteering for the less fortunate), learning to accept constructive feedback, being able to build authentic relationships, developing their ability to problem solve and handle disappointments and conflict, and teaching them how to communicate professionally with adults.
  9. Resist the temptation to solve their problems and manage their performance. These are self confidence destroyers that hamper decision-making and can create co-dependence.

 

If you are the parent of a millennial—what steps have you taken to help make them more “real world ready?” Are there any tips or pointers you would add to this list?

Later this week, I will be addressing my recommendations to secondary educators (with two more parts in the series coming next week!). I’m excited to share this blog series with you and hope you’ll continue to read on and engage as we discuss our roles in equipping the next generation for success!

If you’re interested in accessing the entire article (how we as parents, high school teachers, college professors, and employers can help equip millennials for success) in one place, you can find it in our resource center here.

Teach Your Teen to be Smart about Technology Use

As parents, educators, mentors ,and coaches, most of us have noticed something about the teens and young adults we work with daily: THEY’RE GLUED TO THEIR PHONES!

We’ve probably all said it: “Back in my day, we didn’t even have cell phones…” And yes, that’s the truth. And we did just fine! However, it’s important to acknowledge the element of connectedness that millennials and the following generations possess. Thanks to the advancement of technology—most notably social media and smart phones—teens are able to be more in touch than ever and engage in the world around them in a way that was never possible for us. The sense of community and camaraderie that is fostered from this connectedness is pretty amazing!

That being said, it’s vital the teens in your life know that there’s a time and a place (and an amount!) for technology, social media, and smart phone use. Although it has many benefits, technology has some downsides that we need to consider. We should be considering these “cons,” so to speak, for the social, psychological, and physical health of our younger generation.

Here are some factors to ponder:

  • We text or email rather than talk. This is having significant consequences on communication skills—ask any college professor or employer. We now have a bull market in remedial reading and writing programs, and many young people are having difficulty carrying on conversations with adults.
  • Our lives are more distracted because of our numerous interruptions (a text message, a new Facebook message, an Instagram comment, an event reminder, an e-mail, etc.) and our attention spans have shrunk.
  • Kids spend less time using their imaginations, reading, and being active.
  • We lose the ability to read body language and social cues in other people.
  • Our waistlines are growing as we’ve become more sedentary.
  • We sleep poorly, as online activities keep us up too late and the constant stream of information makes it difficult to turn off our brains. Also, staring at a screen before bedtime can mess up our internal clock and make sleep more difficult.
  • We are being consumed by “busyness” and it is affecting our responsiveness to true priorities, such as family togetherness, activity, spirituality, service, etc.

Funny, I don’t recall seeing warning labels about these side effects when I purchased my smart phone!

I know I’m probably sounding like Fred Flintstone, but I believe there’s some middle ground. When I hear about car accidents occurring because of drivers’ texting, or when I observe my daughter and her friends’ texting when they’re supposed to be enjoying each other’s company, I think the pendulum may have swung too far.

Here are some ways you can encourage the young people in your life to be smart about technology use. Let’s help them (and us!) find that middle ground:

  • Strongly consider setting technology-free hours within your home. For example, between the hours of 6pm and 7 pm for dinner, and from 9pm or 10pm until morning.
  • Parents, place limits on the amount of time your children spend on technology each day. Be on guard for any collateral damage from technology use (e.g., relationships, communication, productivity, motivation, attention spans, irritability).
  • Lead by example, and show the teens you know how to enjoy life’s special moments without their phone. Go for a walk and enjoy good conversation (no need to post a filtered Instagram shot of the scenery!). Go outside and play volleyball or basketball or kick-the-can. Go for an all-day hike on the weekend, and challenge everyone to leave their phones alone the entire time.
  • Disengage from phone use when you’re together at coffee shops, restaurants, and the like. All-too-often I’ve seen parents as phone addicted in public as their kids. Isn’t this supposed to be “quality time?”
  • If you’re a teacher, make sure your classroom is a phone-free zone. Encourage practices that help strengthen your students’ creativity, activity, and resourcefulness.

Remember that time is a precious asset and that relationships are designed to be personal.  Your brain was designed to be active. Your body was designed to move. Don’t let your electronic devices interfere with any of that!

Three Tips to Help You Excel in College

School season has arrived and most of us have settled comfortably (hopefully!) into our classrooms, dorm rooms, or lecture halls. For many students, it’s the first year in the “real world,” experiencing life at college and away from their parents. For others, they’re still in high school, but itching to get the best grades so they can land their dream school. It can be an overwhelming feeling, but I have wonderful news for you.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to get GOOD GRADES!

 Each of us has a learning style and study methods that work best. Also, some of us have shorter or longer attention spans, some of us can still function on limited sleep, and some of us can handle overcommitment through effective multitasking. Some of us need solitude to concentrate, but others not. So, knowing yourself will make a big difference in performing at your best.

But that said, it’s important to understand and practice some universal secrets to academic achievement. These secrets lie within the 3 P’s.

 

  1. The first success ingredient is good planning. This involves making a study calendar a few days to a week out. It may seem like a drag, but it’s the best way to ensure you always have the time you need to study. You can find a reproducible homework and study planner on our website.
  2. This means staying committed to your study schedule, becoming a skilled time manager, and finding a study environment that works best for you (Your room? The library? A quiet study room?). You can use the reproducible daily schedule on our website to help with this. Remember, your brain works like a muscle—the more reps you have in reviewing your material, the more likely you will be to retain it. Try to avoid having to read new material the night before—use the last day(s) for review only.
  3. Deliver what your audience (i.e., teacher or professor) is looking for and enter your exams with supreme confidence that you’re prepared to excel. Be rested, alert, and ready to go. Don’t forget to eat right to fuel your body! (Bring a snack or water if it keeps your mind sharp.) If given the option, answer easier questions first (especially with essays). This gives you extra time to contemplate your answers for the more difficult questions. And, remember during essays, the graders are looking for key words and phrases. Finally, allocate your time wisely among the questions to complete your work at a decent pace.

Students, if you can fully appreciate the need for planning, preparing, and performing, you’ll be well on your way to achieving repeatable academic success. Not just a one-time lucky strike, but predictable success. How’s that for a GPA boost? In this increasingly competitive world, academic performance is critical!

Teachers, how have YOU helped the students in your life become organized and disciplined studiers? We’d love to hear your ideas or any other suggestions you’d add to this list!

 

Be On Guard for Media Bias

Consider this hypothetical set of facts: the US Government just reported that the nation’s GDP (gross domestic product, an indicator used to gauge the health of a country’s economy) grew at 4.0 percent last quarter. This compares with 6.0 percent for the prior quarter and 3.2 percent for the long-term average.

How might this be reported by the purveyors of our news?

Well, first let me tell you how I’d report it: “US economic growth remained strong by historical standards, although it decelerated from the previous quarter.” Accurate and unbiased.

But, let’s say that the media outlet is biased in favor of the sitting President. You’re liable to see something like: “US economic growth remained stellar by historical standards in the latest report, exceeding the long-term average by 25 percent!”

Now, let’s say the news outlet is biased against the sitting President. You’re more likely to see something like, “US economic growth plunged 33 percent from the prior quarter, causing some to believe a recession is on the horizon.”

See the difference? The fact is, media bias is everywhere! And, in election years like now, it’s on steroids!

 I must confess that when I was 18, I had no clue about how much distortion, bias, embellishment, selective reporting, and outright falsehoods exist within the media and among supposed authority figures. We assume that our news reports are accurate and truthful, until we realize that many outlets have an agenda. After all, they have a bully pulpit and can influence our perception of the facts. And, the uninformed and undiscerning will never know. But, not you!

Here are some of the more common clues that your news sources have a slant:

  • Their sensational headlines steer readers toward the perception they want
  • Their opinions don’t stay on the editorial page, confusing readers over what is fact versus what is spin; their opinions are embedded in the articles, often by emphasizing “experts” that reinforce their view
  • They locate positive news items (to their leaning) in the front pages and negative reports toward the back
  • They deliberately feature news items favorable to their views while avoiding news hostile to their view (note this is incredibly common and difficult to detect because one needs to review sources on both sides to notice what’s missing)
  • During elections, their editorial boards strongly favor candidates of one party over the other
  • They take “snipits” of comments or video clips out of context to deliberately mislead
  • They “rereport” articles from news agencies and sources friendly to their editorial leanings

In addition to the print and online journalists, we also observe media bias in our national news reporting and, especially, among radio shows. In addition to the above list, it’s commonly revealed by: 1) the mix of guests they select (skewing in their “favor,” 2) the nature of questions they ask during interviews (often editorialized and slanted), 3) the tone and body language they exhibit with their guests (friendly versus hostile), and 4) the airtime they allow guests favorable versus disagreeable to their views.

Interestingly, when you review the national and state political scene in our country, Americans are essentially split in their leanings. However, studies consistently report that America’s news media and college professors lean left of center, on average. It’s something to be aware of as we filter our news.

The bottom line is this: some try to inform, some try to persuade, and some think they’re informing when they’re really persuading in disguise. That’s why being a discerning skeptic of all we read, hear, and watch is so important.

So, in this election year, have your media (and professor) bias detector on overtime, and use this season as a learning experience for your children and students. Have them watch/read/listen to folks on the political Left like Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, and news sites like the New York Times and Slate), and contrast that with the reporting you’ll receiving on the Right from the likes of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and the National Review. Watch the post-debate commentaries on different news networks to gauge their different perspectives and angles.

It’ll be an eye opener, for sure.

How do you detect media bias? Do you factor it into your interpretation of the news? Do you consciously seek out alternative views when you develop your political opinions?

The Value of Values: Part 3

What do you value most in life? Is it your collector’s hot rod? Your job? Your beach house? Your iPhone? Or, is it something less tangible, like integrity, family togetherness, spirituality, respect, or serving others? Hopefully, it’s one of the latter.

In case you’ve missed it, we’ve been talking a lot about values around here lately, and stressing the importance of instilling strong values in the young people we parent, coach, mentor, and teach. As ethics, morals, manners, and values have become de-emphasized in the public square, political arena, entertainment industry, and corporate boardrooms, we’re witnessing a downward slide in our nation’s character. When character is disregarded or devalued, relativism, “meism,” and chaos fills the vacuum. There’s just no getting around it.

In this last part in our series, I’d like to discuss three more elemental values that are instrumental in creating virtuous and admirable character. Upholding (and believing in) these values not only benefits the upholder, but also his or her family, friends, employer, classmates, coworkers, and beyond. By restoring our societal commitment to character and values, it would truly be a world changer.

  1. Patience. Have you ever lost your patience while waiting in an endless line, or dealing with a finicky customer? Have you ever thrown out some not-so-nice hand gestures in a fit of road rage? Or, how about when you throw a tantrum with your family or friends when things don’t go your way or people disappoint you? The fact is, losing your patience usually does more harm than good in almost every situation. Learning to be patient in all circumstances makes us more pleasant people to be around and allows us to handle stressful situations and conflict in a more level-headed manner. Taking a deep breath and counting to 20 before responding is wise medicine. After all, today’s impatience is often tomorrow’s apology.
  2. Courage. Do you handle tough situations with bravery, or are you more inclined to backing down or withdrawing? Of course, there’s a time and a place for walking away, but sometimes, courage is key. Courage means never letting your fears drive your life, and instead, stepping out of your comfort zone and always doing the right thing and standing up for yourself (respectfully), no matter how un-cool it may seem.
  3. Self-control. This is likely a tough one for many of us. Self-control can be related to our outward behavior (for example, how we impulsively react when we are annoyed or angry), as well as our internal motivations (for example, our relationship with food). When you practice self control, it means that you are able to manage your impulses and respond to temptation in a way that benefits yourself and others. Instead of reacting in the heat of the moment, you’re able to reel yourself in and think about your choices before you actually make them. This is a big one, friends. Consider taking a moment to self-check and see if there are any areas where you could use greater self control.

In case you missed the last two parts in this series, you can catch up on them here and here. For our comprehensive positive traits and values list, click here. We encourage you to discuss them with your families and students as a great self-awareness project. Which ones are we modeling well? Where could we up our game? Are any of them outdated? What others might you add to the list?

Thank you for being a part of this series! Have a great school year!

The Value of Values: Part 2

What qualities do you admire most in others? What qualities do you strive to model yourself? Did you know your qualities (in other words, the things about your character that stand out most to others) all come from your values? Values are the sentiments we hold close to our hearts, and usually, they are what cause us to be good, virtuous people.

These fundamental values make up the foundation of our society and allow us to function in harmony and solidarity, despite our differences. These are the values that you’re thankful for when you get a phone call that your lost wallet has been found (with all the cash still inside), or when a stranger helps you change your flat tire on the side of the road.

With moral relativism becoming more prevalent (sadly, even encouraged!), many people (the young especially) are missing out on the development of some crucial values. In our increasingly PC society, many are succumbing to a misplaced view that there are no moral absolutes. (With a deemphasis on character-based education, it’s not surprising.) Because of this, these students aren’t operating with qualities that will allow them to be as successful in life. How, you may ask? When the value of honesty isn’t instilled from a young age, relationships, job performance, and even academic life will suffer later on. When people don’t value respect for others, they will lose control, lash out, and potentially ruin their own reputation. See what I mean?

In this second part of our series on values, I’d like to discuss three more that are crucial to model and develop in our young people.

  1. Empathy. When you empathize with people, you enter into their world and their feelings to provide support and encouragement. Along with compassion, it is one of the most powerful human qualities of generosity. Empathy is an incredibly important value, as it makes us nurturing parents, loving spouses, supportive friends, and service-minded community members. Empathy allows you to help the people around you feel loved, supported, and understood.
  2. Responsibility. I like to think of responsibility as taking ownership of our attitudes, actions, and performance. It’s really an amalgam of accountability, trustworthiness, reliability, capability, and high personal standards. It’s being someone others can count on, no matter what. Responsible adults admit when they’ve made a mistake, prioritize their time wisely, tell the truth, show up on time, and have the courage to say no to risky situations. And, they don’t blame others or make excuses for their shortfalls. We could use more of this, don’t you think?
  3. Resilience. How many of us have been knocked down in life, only to lose all hope and wonder if the situation could get any worse? That, my friends, is the opposite of resilience. Resilient people handle adversity with grace and confidence. Did you notice how this admirable quality was on full display at the Olympics? They get back up, try again, and understand that oftentimes, adversity can create room for further personal growth. You know the old saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” It’s true!

No matter where you lie when it comes to your religious and political leanings, I think we can all agree that the above values are, well, valuable! They have the power to create stronger families, safer communities, and happier neighborhoods! Oh, and a happier you!

What values would you add to this list? Can you think of a situation in which you’ve benefitted from someone else’s strong values? How is your school incorporating values training in the classroom?

The Value of Values

“Without ethical culture, there is no salvation for humanity.”

-Albert Einstein

I think that we can all agree there are a lot of things we (society as a whole). . . well. . . disagree on. These days, so many topics feel “unsafe” to talk about because they can be polarizing and controversial (politics and religion, especially). Everyone seems to have a different idea about the right way to vote, the right way to worship, what things should and should not be illegal…the list goes on. Although it can be difficult to work through differences with others, I think diversity is one of the things that makes our country so wonderful.

However, I’d like to talk about something that we can all agree on. Even when politics and religion and other controversial topics are set aside, I believe there are some common values that are (at least should be) at the foundation of our society. These are values that we as parents, educators, mentors, and coaches should be instilling within the hearts and minds of the young people we work with. These are values that make us productive employees, loving spouses, attentive parents, successful students, loyal friends, and contributing members of society.

Although this list is not exhaustive, I’d like to share a bit about some non-negotiable values that we should esteem highly, not only in our own character, but also in the young people we influence.

  • Integrity— When you are a person of integrity, you adhere to ethical character, follow through with your word and always tell the truth, no matter what.. You may not always be liked or loved, but you must always be trusted. To that end, we like to challenge people to only say neutral or positive things about someone who is not present. If everyone adhered to this, it’d literally change the world! Of all the values, I think this one is the most important.
  • Kindness—This is exemplified by the Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Who can argue with that? When we operate with kindness, we use words that encourage and uplift and actively seek out ways to help others.
  • Authenticity—Be the real you! With all the peer pressure to fit in, this one can be tough for young people. There is nothing more liberating than living freely as your true, authentic self, without the hindrance of masks or facades. A good rule of thumb is that if you have to change who you are or compromise your values to be accepted by someone or some group, they’re not worth your time. You’ll never become sustainable friends anyway.
  • Respect: This involves showing honor, regard, and consideration toward others. We’ve all been taught (or should have been!) to respect our elders and people in authority, but this applies equally to everyone we’re around. Of all of the values, I think this one is being diminished to the greatest extent, both with adults and with the younger generation. While many pay lip service to tolerance, their behavior is decidedly in
  • Personal motivation/self-discipline—Without personal motivation and self-discipline, we would never be successful at our careers (or school)! By staying committed to performing well, being reliable, and having high standards, your productivity will skyrocket and your reputation will soar. Strive to live up to the motto: on time, every time, with excellence.

How would you rate yourself on these values? Consider using this as a self-check, and take a moment to see how you’re doing in these areas. Are there areas for improvement? Remember, humility and a willingness to change and grow is an important value in and of itself.  Share this post with the young people in your life and encourage them to do the same.

If you’d like to read more about the values we consider to be of utmost importance, check out this values checklist we’ve compiled. Or, stay tuned for next week when we will share more values from our list and talk about how valuable values really are.

Making the Most of Our Campus Goodbyes

For most of us, August is one of our favorite months. Memorable vacations, campfires, trips to the pool, Little League playoffs—all packed in with a sense of urgency, for school is just around the corner.

But, for others, August is a time of dread. Take, for example, parents wondering how they will hold it together as they bid farewell to their incoming freshman at his/her new campus home. Their imaginary “practice sessions” didn’t usually end well, so they fear a looming disaster. Sound familiar?

I’ll never forget our first college goodbye experience. Our family set foot on the beautiful campus of Pepperdine University for a 2+ day orientation. The goodbyes wouldn’t come until day three. My wife and I were composed through day two, which was cause for optimism. But, then came Showtime.

We all met in the gym—imagine a jam-packed facility filled with families dreading their final moments! The administrators gave great talks (especially the “don’t helicopter” ones).  All was well until, with no warning, the speaker said, ”Parents, now it’s time for you to leave.” It wasn’t just the abruptness that caught us off guard, but imagine a gymnasium filled with a thousand goodbyes! Are you kidding me? Don’t they know that tears are as contagious as yawns?!? I could feel my composure slipping away, and by the time it was my turn, all I could get out was, “Thanks.” (Postscript: a few days later I penned a letter to Michael saying everything I planned on. And, I did much better the second time around with Lauren!)

Now, from the benefit of experience and as an author of books for parents and teens, I look at this time as an incredible blessing and opportunity. It IS a huge milestone for parents, so there WILL be emotions. That’s okay. After all, this once newborn is now a young adult primed to fulfill his/her dreams and purpose! And their parents played a huge role in shaping this once child for a promising adulthood.

With that, here are some tips to make the most of your goodbye (from both your perspective and that of your teen):

  • Share the honor and privilege it has been to be their parent
  • Let them know you are proud of the person they have become
  • Affirm your belief in them—the person they are, the choices they will make, and the future that lies ahead
  • Acknowledge (and abide by!) your new role as chief coach and encourager. Remember, you’re releasing an eagle to soar, not a kite to control.

(Note that these don’t have to wait until the final goodbye, but they are important messages to share at some point.)

But, now, for a little tough love. There are far too many stories of parents who are holding on for dear life rather than letting go, and it’s not helpful. Here’s a sampler:

  • A mother showing up with her 24-year old son at his final job interview. She cost him the job.
  • Employers who are conducting workshops for managers to deal with parent interference
  • Parents incessantly texting to check in
  • Parents who complain to professors about their student’s grades
  • Parents who feel it’s their duty to intervene when their student faces challenges or the risk of failure
  • Parents whose identity is so consumed by their role as mother and father that they choose to remain in the driver seat rather than move to the passenger seat.

These are real and they are becoming increasingly common. They are self confidence destroyers and entitlement mentality boosters. We can do better—especially for them, but also for us.

 

Few milestones are as emotional and meaningful as our goodbyes when our kids leave home—to colleges or otherwise. Sure, we will miss them, but we can also look forward to a new adult-to-adult relationship, too. So, let’s strive to fill our goodbyes with gratitude, belief, confidence, and love.

 

Have you experienced a college goodbye? How did it go? What other ideas can you share to encourage others in the “letting go” process? We’d love to hear from you.

 

P.S., We invite you to check out our book, Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. Here’s a link to learn more.

Avoid College De-Railers for Optimum Success

The United States has a respectable college enrollment rate—in fact, it’s whopping 70 percent. We can be proud of that. But here’s a startling fact: more than 30 percent of those students will drop out after their first year. That means one third of the people who start on their post-secondary education don’t make it to their sophomore year. We should be concerned about that.

What do these statistics tell us? I interpret it this way: Our society does a great job of encouraging young people to enroll in college or university after high school. It’s of high importance, or else so many people wouldn’t choose this path. However, somewhere, somehow, something is going awry. Are students not receiving the preparation they need to succeed at independent living? Is the “college or bust” message dissuading students from better fitting alternatives? Is school too expensive? Do students feel unimportant and unvalued in their larger classes (small fish in a big pond effect)? Are students making choices that derail their educational career?

It’s likely a combination of all of the above, but today I want to talk about choices—specifically, those that prematurely end college careers. Derailers come in many forms, so we encourage you to discuss these with your student(s) before they land on campus:

  1. So much freedom, so soon! Although academics and a future career are the core reasons for attending college, other (more) appealing activities abound! Use your newfound freedom to become a wise manager of your time and priorities. Sure, it’s great to stay up as late as you want,, but remember the choices you make with your recent autonomy will affect your class attendance, your overall academic experience, and even your financial aid package. Put simply: Don’t skip class! Similarly, be wise when making your social, recreational, and activity choices. The party scene and all it’s trappings can easily be the beginning of a very slippery slope. Remember, studies are the top priority—your “job” so to speak. The rest is frosting on the cake.

 

  1. Financial irresponsibility. I’ll never forget what it felt like to check my bank account when I was in college. It wasn’t unheard of to only have 50, 25, or even 10 dollars in there. Frivolous spending on unnecessary eating-out, coffee, clothes, or entertainment could have seriously de-railed my entire college education. If you’re in a similar boat, keep your end goal in mind to help you curb the temptation to spend. Remember, if you save now and focus on school, you’ll reap the benefits later. Budgeting and self discipline make all the difference.

 

  1. Poor study habits. College is harder and more competitive than high school. There are longer papers, more intense exams, and higher expectations. Discipline and focus are key if you want to succeed (and make it to graduation!). Manage your time wisely, create a study planner, and don’t participate in “extra” activities until all of your homework and studying are complete. (If you’re looking for more advice on creating good study disciplines, we devote an entire chapter to it in What I Wish I Knew at 18. You can buy the book here.)

 

  1. Surrounding yourself with the wrong people. It’s crucial that you surround yourself with positive influences during this time in your life. Hanging out with the wrong crowd can hinder your success in a variety of ways (and just because you’re not in high school anymore doesn’t mean you’re immune to peer-pressure!). Creating lasting friendships with like-minded people can take time and effort, so be patient and know you may need to put yourself in new environments in order to make new friends. Think “positivity” in everything you do and everyone you are with!

I hope this advice—coming from someone not too far removed from the college experience—can help you prepare your student for what’s ahead. And, if you need one more statistic to show what’s at stake, I’ll leave you with this: college dropouts make one million dollars less over the span of their careers than individuals with degrees!*

Success in college comes from knowing what to do and what de-railers to avoid. By discussing these before the fact, we can improve our graduation rates and the futures of our next generation.

*Source: “The Economic Value of College Majors,” by Georgetown University Center on Education and The Workforce. https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/Exec-Summary-web-B.pdf