Our Top Ten Parenting Goals for the School Year: Part One

Last week, we challenged students to set fresh new goals to jumpstart the school year. Goals that would enrich their lives and build valuable leadership skills. Now, dads and moms, it’s your turn! We can always up our games, too.

As we at LifeSmart evaluate the trends among today’s teens and young adults—the success stories and the struggles—we can often correlate the results to parenting effectiveness. No, we are not in control of our children’s success, but we can foster a supportive and empowering environment to give them the best chances. And, when we do, it’s a “win win” for all.

Based on feedback from students, educators, employers, and mentors, we crafted our top ten goals for parents this year. We’re sure you’re already modeling many very well, and, that’s great! But, as you reflect on this (and next week’s) blog, we hope you’ll find some areas to sharpen that will accrue to the benefit of your children.

In no particular order, here goes:

  1. Equip and empower for independence: Many teens are struggling with their transitions into adulthood. Although well intentioned, parents are often contributing by helicoptering, overprotecting, doing versus guiding, and treating their children as friends. Instead, let’s focus on raising self confident and well prepared future adults who are resilient and independent problem solvers. Let’s move emotionally and practically from the driver seat to the passenger seat by giving them greater responsibility and accountability and treating them like adults. Sure they may underachieve or make mistakes, but those lessons are vital to their personal growth and success.

 

  1. Develop soft skills and professionalism: Book smarts don’t always translate into life smarts. Ask any employer of young people. The lack of work experience and character education, as well as our casual culture and communication, are taking a toll. So, use every opportunity to build these vital skills for the workplace and life: high standards, integrity, dependability, positivity, motivation, teamwork/relationship building, communication, resilience, respect, and professional manners. It’ll help them build a great brand and gain admirers.

 

  1. Invest in your relationship: As teens exert their independence, it can feel like they’re pushing their parents away. But, no matter how discouraging this can be, continue to invest in your relationship—it will pay off. Keep those lines of communication wide open and put your listening skills to good use! Think “share with” more than “talk to.” Affirm their uniqueness and value, and demonstrate how much you believe in them. Find the time and place they open up most and make it happen. And, go tech free during meals.

 

  1. Build a strong work ethic: What happens when we do our children’s work because of their busy schedules or our desire to see them happy? It hampers their motivation and work ethic, and employers are indicating that this is a BIG issue. As teens mature, so should their responsibilities around the home. That means doing chores that will not only help your household, but will also prepare them for life on their own. Part-time jobs and volunteering for the community or neighborhood contribute too.

 

  1. Quash any sense of entitlement: Over the past few decades, our culture has become child centric. So, it’s not surprising that many young people see the world as revolving around them. (Many universities are playing into this too and delaying their students’ maturation.) Consequently, young adults are in for a rude awakening when they enter the competitive workforce. Be on the lookout for signs of an entitlement mentality brewing in your children, and take corrective measures if needed. A volunteer trip to the soup kitchen can do wonders. Teach yours that privileges and success are earned, often the hard way.

 

If these resonate with you, we hope you share this blog with your friends and pick up a copy of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. It’s filled with encouragement and practical tips to help you parent with purpose and let go with confidence!

So, how are you doing on these five? Stay tuned for part two next week.

Building Workplace Readiness Skills: Part One

We’ve heard the stories all too often. You have your own stories, no doubt, but here are some of mine:

  • My friend, a corporate executive, was preparing to interview five finalists for a new position; only one showed up on time. (Guess who landed the job?)
  • Another employer was recruiting at a career fair on a college campus. Based on first impressions and conversations with graduating seniors, not a single student was invited in for an interview.
  • A local restaurant owner received a call from an “ill” teenage employee five minutes before start time, yet fifteen minutes later she was posting pictures of herself at a beach party. It cost her the job.

You might think these are exceptional cases, but we hear stories like this all the time from employers of teens and young adults. As accomplished as young workers may be academically or otherwise, far too many are not workplace ready.

As the marketplace becomes more competitive, are we actually regressing at launching real world-ready graduates from our homes and schools? Many agree and point to such contributors as ineffective parenting, lack of whole person training in schools, and high youth unemployment rates.

This is why I’ve been encouraged by the work at the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia and CTECS (Career and Technical Education Consortium of States), who have taken proactive steps to turn the tide. They surveyed employers to identify their most valued workplace readiness skills, and their conclusions, summarized here, establish 21 Workplace Readiness Skills (WRS) for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

[After reviewing the WRS list, we were gratified to learn that our What I Wish I Knew at 18 curriculum (including our “How to Be an MVP Employee” DVD) address 14 of these 21 employer-based skills! You can see how our lessons and success pointers align to these WRS here.]

At LifeSmart, we want to contribute to this crucial conversation by sharing some thoughts on ten of these important skills, starting this week with “Work Ethic” and “Integrity.” We hope you’ll follow along in our series and share your ideas as we go!

Work Ethic   

Fresh out of college, Joe arrives at his new job with visions of grandeur—perhaps a corner office with a great view. Then reality hits—his new work station is a bite-sized interior cubicle. Feeling disgraced, he delivers an inferior product and doesn’t last long.
How can we help the “Joes” we know—whether as students, mentees, or children in our home? Parents can help by instilling the intrinsic value of hard work, avoiding doing their work for them (including homework!), and by not condoning efforts that are clearly lacking.

Educators can help by being mindful of how grade inflation is affecting work ethic and creating attitudes of entitlement. Our colleges and employers are increasingly dealing with both, as students feel “deserving” of special considerations and concessions.

The bottom line: A strong work ethic builds dependability—an essential leadership quality.

Integrity

“We may not always be loved, but we must always be trusted.” This saying is so true! Integrity is one of the most important qualities (arguably number one!) that make up one’s “personal brand.” It’s very difficult to recover from a damaged reputation, and a lack of integrity is often the cause.

 

Here are five attributes of a person of integrity:

  1. They always tell the truth and call out the untruths of others.
  2. They own up to their mistakes and shortfalls.
  3. They uphold high ethical standards, both personally and professionally.
  4. They keep their promises.
  5. They keep their communications about others neutral or positive (especially those who are not present).

 

Whether we’re educators, parents, or mentors, we all have opportunities to incorporate these vital skills into our training of this generation. As you consider those under your guidance, how do they fare on these 21 skills? How might you help address the gaps?

 

Don’t Whine – Just Do It!

  How do you react when you don’t get your way? What’s your typical response when you’re asked to do something you’re either not in the mood to do or that is outside your comfort zone? How about when someone in a position of authority makes a decision with which you don’t agree?

            Nobody likes to be in these situations but they happen a lot in life, especially in the workplace…or at home growing up!

            When you are in that position, you can take one of four approaches:           

 

1         1.      Push back or passively disregard. Argue with your supervisor and leave him with the impression you think he or she is        incompetent. Or, take the passive route and just ignore or procrastinate responding to emails, assignments, and deadlines.

           2.     Stuff, stew, and spite. Suppress your irritation and maybe hold a grudge. Withhold any pertinent information you have that may help the boss make a better decision. 

3         3.     Cheerfully comply. Remember this is what you get paid to do. Consider that your supervisor (or parent) may be working with information and a bigger perspective that you do not have. Keep in mind that your future could depend on your ability to be a cooperative team player.

          4.     Respectfully request consideration of your input. If you are quite convinced there is a better option, look for a private opportunity to ask your supervisor (or parent) to consider your suggestion. Phrase your concerns as questions, such as, “Have you thought about …” or “Might it be a better solution if…?” Frame your concerns humbly and in such a way that it is clear your intention is to be helpful, not willful.

 

            If you are an employee who can express your disagreements respectfully, knowing how to stand your ground while remaining open minded, your value will multiply in the eyes of your supervisor. On the other hand, if you are an employee who always has a different idea about how to do things, can’t be counted on to follow directions, or who has an “attitude” about being told what to do, your value will quickly diminish. You may soon find yourself looking for another job!

            More often than not, you won’t have a choice in the matter when given a direction at work (and at home). So here’s a word to the wise: handle it as one of life’s inevitable unpleasantries. Take a page from Nike’s handbook, and “Just do it!”  Not only will the Nike approach prevent you from irritating and even alienating others, but chances are that things will turn out fine after all—and you’ll earn a reputation for being a trusted and valuable employee 

                                                                    

What’s your attitude when things don’t go the way you want? Are you someone who tries to make the best out of difficult situations and be a team player? What advice would you give to a young person who is new on the job and in this situation?  We’d love to hear your experiences and ideas!

Let’s Nuke the Entitlement Mentality

 

 

As I was enjoying a much needed three-day weekend, my mind drifted to three recent conversations relevant to Labor Day. I was reflecting on how the world is becoming smaller and increasingly competitive. And, on how we have to raise the bar just to stay even.
 
Are we?
 
When I considered who are best positioned to answer this question, two groups immediately came to mind: employers of young people and school counselors. After all, they’re the respective “consumers” of the nation’s schools and the “focal points” in guiding our students.
 
And, to a person, they’re concerned and discouraged.
 
The manager of a coffee shop who teaches “tech ed” at high school vented about the lacking social skills and work ethic of his employees and students and their “entitlement mentality.” He faces an uphill battle because parents are routinely feeding these attitudes, both at work and school—last minute absentee calls and flak over any grade short of an “A.” Even nasty calls to employers and professors when their children don’t get the promotion or grades they “deserved!”
 
A veteran school counselor shared how the first week has already had its share of student disrespect and parental entitlement issues. Regrettably, this is consistent with a survey of school counselors I conducted a few months ago. Student apathy, “entitlement mentality,” and lack of parental support were among the top five issues they cited…all as the world grows more competitive.
 
Juxtapose this with a conversation I had with a determined Indonesian high school student after my talk “Developing the Great Leaders of Tomorrow” during my book launch tour.
 
“Mr. Dennis,” he said, “I’m not as smart at academics as I’d like to be. But, can I still become a great leader?” He gets it. It’s not just about book smarts. It’s about life smarts—without entitlements.
 
All of us—parents, schools, politicians, and media/culture drivers have a stake in reversing this trend. That means honoring and modeling hard work and ethics and preparing young people for a life that isn’t always fair. It means teaching that failure is part of life and self-esteem is something best earned. It means that as parents, our value isn’t defined by a perfect performance from our children, but whether they are people of excellence who strive to do their best.
 
So, now that Labor Day is over, it’s time to get to work…on this!
 
What are your observations about work ethic in young adults these days … good and bad? What are your suggestions for helping to diminish an entitlement mentality and develop an appreciation for and commitment to personal reponsibility and industriousness? We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!