At an educators’ conference last summer, a professor from a large Texas university approached me after our workshop on preparing high school students for “real world success.” Her question was, “This is great—but how can we get this message to parents as well?”
We hear that a lot. In fact, in our work with educators, youth mentors, and business and community leaders, there’s an overwhelming and urgent cry. They tell us that too many young people today are entering adulthood underprepared.
How did we get to this state of affairs? There are a number of factors. One is what it commonly referred to as an “entitlement” mentality—the sense that other people owe us something, regardless of whether we have done anything to earn it. Many young adults feel entitled to get their way, viewing rules as arbitrary, their needs as paramount, and other people as existing to serve them.
It’s easy to see how this mentality can affect a young person’s ability to navigate relationships and responsibilities in the “real world.” It harms relationships with teachers, coaches, professors, employers, and other superiors? It demotivates.
Where does this kind of thinking come from? Let’s take a look at some contributing factors that can stem from the home:
- Parents catering to a child’s whims and wants (and whose lives are dominated by their children’s activities)
- Parents doing their children’s homework, chores, etc. (“They have too much homework.” “They’re busy.” “They’re overworked.”)
- Parents defending their children’s unacceptable behavior in meetings with school officials, coaches, etc.
- Parents complaining to and threatening educators, coaches, and employers when their children aren’t receiving desired rewards or positions
- Parents who don’t demand their children take responsibility for their mistakes and shortfalls or show respect to others
- Parents who focus first and foremost on being their child’s friend
Granted, it’s not all about parenting and what we do or don’t do. However, the way we train our children has a greatly influences how prepared they are for independent life. We can give them wings—or we can give them strings.
Strings would be anything that ties our children down and prevents them from achieving their full potential. We tie our kids down when we overly enable or control them. Wings are the things we do to prepare our children to be secure, confident, and independent adults who will live with integrity and impact. We empower our kids when we train them with strong internal guiding principles and give them freedom, opportunity, and accountability to apply them. Picture an eagle—it is free to soar high and far and to navigate the winds and turbulence that life often brings.
If you’re parenting teens, are you giving them wings… or strings? It’s one of the most significant parenting fundamental (so much so that it’s the first chapter in our new book!). Next week we’ll take a look at what wings and strings can look like in real life. It’s something to think about.