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When I recently asked a teacher if her students read very much, she asked if I could explain what I meant.  Hmmm. I felt like it was a fairly straightforward question. So, I proceeded to repeat my words.

She later explained the reason she asked her question is that most of her students actually read quite a bit. They read posts on social media platforms, they read text messages, they read headlines from Buzzfeed. In terms of volume, today’s teenager reads a lot. If we are asking, however, if kids today read deeply for long periods of time—the answer may be quite different.

Many teachers and parents tell me today:

  • I can’t get my son to sit still to read a book together.
  • My daughter won’t pay attention to a program long enough to follow the plot.
  • My young athletes get distracted when I explain our strategy on the sideline.

The issue here is not intelligence. It is attention span.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an “attention span” is the “the length of time during which one is able to concentrate or remain interested.”

What’s Trending in Kids

You’ve probably read the humorous comparison between a teenager today and a goldfish. An adolescent has an attention span one second shorter than the fish. So, good luck with your classroom. Or your lecture at home. The attention span of a teen in the year 2000 was 12 seconds. (This means they can pay attention to something for 12 seconds until they’re diverted by something else more intriguing). Attention spans need to be defined, however, by two common scenarios kids experience:

Transient attention is a short-term response to a stimulus that temporarily attracts/distracts attention. Researchers disagree on the exact amount of human transient attention span. Kids pay attention to many items during their day.

Selective sustained attention, also known as focused attention, is the level of attention that produces the consistent results on a task over time. Estimates of the attention span of healthy teenagers and adults can range from 10 to 20 minutes; however, there isn’t exact evidence for this estimate. People can choose repeatedly to re-focus on the same thing. This ability to renew attention permits people to ‘pay attention’ to things that last for more than a few minutes, such as lengthy films.

How Do We Increase Attention Spans?

Pause and consider: attention spans for teens today are 8 seconds—but they binge watch “Game of Thrones” on HBO for hours. It’s not that they can’t pay attention. So what do we learn from this? Our young can, indeed, pay attention to anything they deem captivating. Anything enthralling. The secret is: intrigue.

So, let’s consider “Game of Thrones” or any other interesting television series or movie. What do they contain that parents, teachers and coaches often don’t? Here are five elements in great shows or stories that we do well to apply as we communicate:

1. Problem and Conflict

Every great show or movie contains a significant conflict with high stakes. Even when viewers know it is a fantasy, our minds are enraptured by the great problem that needs to be solved. Teachers can leverage this in our classrooms. We must invite conflict in and then invite students to resolve it. What if a civics teacher interviewed a victim of theft before talking about crime in the city?

2. Unique and Interesting Situations

Just like Game of Thrones, what if we exposed students to unique contexts that introduce them to an entirely new world they’re not accustomed to seeing? How can a field trip or a video or some images introduce them to fresh ideas? Observing or experiencing something different can be absorbing.

3. Story and Imagery

One of the quickest ways to capture and hold the attention of a student is to introduce images and stories from real life. This captivates the right hemisphere of their brain not just the left. And because pictures are worth a thousand words, they engage more quickly.

4. People They Care About (Relationships)

I find it hilarious to read some of the comments about the characters that appear in current television shows. People talk about them as if they’re real. Why? Because those viewers have begun to care about those characters. They have observed an arch to their story and now they desire a certain future. This should be relatively easy for us to do in our communication.

5. Progress and Resolution

Finally, most humans long for a resolution to come to the conflict they’ve witnessed. We stay with a story or a classroom for that matter when we see progress being made toward an answer. This is learned industriousness. If we see no progress, we become tired and quit. When we see progress we stick.

Let’s make our communication more like a great story, full of imagery. We may just collect an audience of young listeners who stay with us.

Order Now: Marching Off the Map
Inspire Students to Navigate a Brand New World

Leading today’s students often feels like being in a new country with old maps that don’t work. Understanding and connecting with the generation in this land is often times frustrating and draining. We need new strategies on how to march off our old maps and create new ones.

From decades of research and hands-on experience, Dr. Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak collate their conclusions into one resource that helps adults:

  • Inspire students to own their education and their future
  • Lead students from an attitude of apathy to one of passion through metacognition
  • Enable students to push back from the constant digital distractions and practice mindfulness
  • Raise kids who make healthy progress, both emotionally and mentally, through their teenage years
  • Give students the tools to handle the complexities of an ever-changing world
  • Understand and practically apply the latest research on Generation Z
Order Here

The post Five Tips to Increase Attention Spans in Young Adults appeared first on Growing Leaders.

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Last year, two educators shared a similar story with me about students who learned how to work the “school system.” Each of the students purposely did poorly on their exams at the beginning of the school year. They answered questions almost randomly. By midterm, they put more thought into the tests they took and by the end of the year, they did their best—knowing they would show improvement.

When asked why they did this, both students revealed what they knew:

  • My parents just want to see improvement in my test scores. And I improved.
  • My teachers want me to succeed and will do all they can to insure I do.

In both cases, these students were hedging their bets, taking risks because they felt confident the adults would make sure they felt successful in the end. In fact, the adults in their life wanted those students to succeed more than the students did.

A Moral Hazard

This is what economists and psychologist call a “moral hazard.” In case you forgot, let me remind you of the definition of a moral hazard:

A moral hazard is the lack of incentive to guard against risk when one is protected from its consequences.

In the United States today, we see more and more of these moral hazards happening before our very eyes. One example is a financial investor who takes more risks with his money because he’s insured. This person is more apt to make risky decisions that benefit him in a payoff because his consequences are removed and placed on the insurance company.

Similarly, an employee who drives a company car may be more apt to drive carelessly because she doesn’t have to pay for the repairs of that vehicle. It’s a moral hazard. Whenever consequences are diminished for bad choices, people are prone to be a little more risky in their conduct.

In other words, the risk of poor decisions is borne by others.

Recently, a miracle treatment was discovered for opioid overdose. It’s called the Lazarus Drug and has been shown to bring unconscious drug abusers back to consciousness. The testimonials are amazing. The bad news is, it seems to cause opioid users to take more risks. When experimental and control groups were observed by medical professionals, they noticed that deaths by overdose were not going down where this drug was available. In fact, in some parts of the country, they had risen. After examining the evidence, medical professionals conclude it’s a “moral hazard.” Because opioid users know this drug is available, they are taking more of the drugs, and often not getting to the antidote quickly enough. When they felt their risk of dying was reduced, they took more risks. This is a natural human inclination throughout history.

It is also an inclination with our kids in too many areas.

Moral Hazards Among Our Students

Economist Paul Krugman describes a moral hazard as “any situation in which one person makes the decision about how much risk to take, while someone else bears the cost if things go badly.”

In too many cases, we adults communicate that we have more to gain or lose than our students do when they make decisions—and that has returned to haunt them. We’ve communicated this by passing more legislation, creating more rules and developing more safety policies instead of teaching our young to act responsibly and experience the benefits or consequences of their behavior. We own it, not them.

  • Students who know if they forget their homework, backpack or permission slip, mom or dad will rush it in, rescue them and solve their problem.
  • Students who get harmed or even die from stupid accidents because all their lives we passed safety rules instead of teaching them responsibility.
  • Students who are paralyzed from making decisions because we did it for them all their life, too afraid to let them learn and experience tough consequences.

The fact is, too many students who’ve been hovered over by parents, teachers, coaches and adult guardians are prevented from taking normal risks in adolescence. In the end, those young adults don’t even know how to mitigate risk when it’s time to do so. We either did it for them, or we created a fool proof environment.

As they become adults, they require more legislation, more policies, more rules and regulations because they never genuinely “owned” their life. They are still immature.

It’s time we reduce “moral hazards” in our kid’s lives. How? By not solving all their problems with more policies or practicing controlling leadership on our part. They need to see the benefits and consequences of their decisions. We must let them own their choices and communicate that we believe they’re capable of doing so.

New Book: Generation Z Unfiltered
Preorder Package $24.99

Our new book is now available for preorder! This generation of students who have grown up in the 21st century are the most social, the most empowered, and also the most anxious youth population in human history. If you are struggling to connect with and lead them, you are not alone. The latest research presented in this book, however, illuminates a surprising reality: The success of the next generation doesn’t depend entirely on them. Their best chance of success starts when adults choose to believe in them, challenge them, and walk with them through the nine greatest challenges today’s youth will face. For their sake, and for the future success of our world, it’s time we started seeing Generation Z—unfiltered.

From decades of research and hands-on experience, Dr. Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak collate their conclusions into one resource that helps adults:

  • Understand the differences between Generation Z and previous generations – including the Millennials (Generation Y)
  • Discover the nine unique challenges that Generation Z is currently facing and how you can help them practically address each one
  • Develop coping skills in students to help them overcome their high levels of stress and anxiety
  • Cultivate grit and resilience in young adults that will allow them to bounce back from future setbacks
  • Apply proven, research-based strategies to equip teens and young adults to reach their potential
Pre-Order Here

The post The Importance of Reducing Moral Hazards with Students appeared first on Growing Leaders.

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I got flack from a college student when I released the first Habitudes book that included an image called, “Personal Laptop.” This principle teaches that our minds operate much like a personal laptop computer: they go with us everywhere we go and record the content we put in them. Our minds store information and experiences that influence our decisions. Garbage in, garbage out. Positive in, positive out.

The university student felt it was silly to think that when students consume content it could affect them. He wasn’t rude. Just naïve. He felt that people are not affected by what they watch or read, be it porn or violence or you name it.

I believe the data just doesn’t back this assumption up.

What Research Says

If this student was right, no company would advertise on television or on social media sites. But they do. Those companies are banking on the fact that their ad will influence readers and they have data proving which locations will yield the best results. Then, there is research that’s come in more recently:

  • The University of Indiana published research on how violent content causes viewers to think and act more aggressively. Video gamers and movie viewers were tracked and found to be affected by what they saw.
  • In 2017, when the Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why” aired, showing a teen girl actually following through on her suicide, suicides among teens rose 13 percent in the months that followed, according to JAMA Psychiatry.
  • When a school shooting occurs and gets air time, “copy-cat” shootings are common in the days and weeks that follow. Something happens when our imaginations are cued by an emotional scene.

My explanation?

Our minds do work a bit like personal laptops. They’re portable and they record what they consume. It’s not that we can’t choose our behavior. It’s simply that the more we fill our minds with a certain type of content, the more apt we are to emulate it. The movies we see in cinemas are rated by the Motion Picture Association of America, cautioning parents about allowing children to see certain content. We intuitively know our mind, will and emotions are impacted by content we see. And content that’s repeated over and over has a more profound impact.

It’s actually what makes leaders so influential.

Your Leadership

A leader, a teacher or a parent can make the greatest speech, motivating kids to behave in certain ways, but if their behavior betrays that speech, good luck getting the kids to follow the words. As humans, kids are more likely to imitate actions. We emulate example more than speeches. Our minds are visual, we think in pictures, and, according to 3M, our brains process visual information 60,000 times faster than text. The very nerves in our brains are tied to our eyes’ retina.

Consequently, good leaders naturally cultivate good cultures by their examples, and poor leaders contagiously foster negative cultures. People watch leaders.

So, as you prepare for the next time you’ll be in front of students (even your own kids), may I suggest you put just as much time into planning what you’ll do as what you’ll say? What example will you provide that backs up the conduct you’ll look for in your listeners?  My friend, assistant principal Kirsten Baker, said recently that she wanted her kids to continue reading while they’re off from school this summer. So, she suggested a family policy: everyone reads at least 30 minutes a day. This means, she does as well. Kids are more apt to emulate an action than a speech.

  • Question: What are you feeding your mind consistently?
  • Question: What are your young people feeding their minds upon?
  • Question: Do you see any correlation between their consumption and action?

Let’s not kid ourselves. The fact is—our minds are like personal laptops.

New Book: Generation Z Unfiltered
Preorder Package $24.99

Our new book is now available for preorder! This generation of students who have grown up in the 21st century are the most social, the most empowered, and also the most anxious youth population in human history. If you are struggling to connect with and lead them, you are not alone. The latest research presented in this book, however, illuminates a surprising reality: The success of the next generation doesn’t depend entirely on them. Their best chance of success starts when adults choose to believe in them, challenge them, and walk with them through the nine greatest challenges today’s youth will face. For their sake, and for the future success of our world, it’s time we started seeing Generation Z—unfiltered.

From decades of research and hands-on experience, Dr. Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak collate their conclusions into one resource that helps adults:

  • Understand the differences between Generation Z and previous generations – including the Millennials (Generation Y)
  • Discover the nine unique challenges that Generation Z is currently facing and how you can help them practically address each one
  • Develop coping skills in students to help them overcome their high levels of stress and anxiety
  • Cultivate grit and resilience in young adults that will allow them to bounce back from future setbacks
  • Apply proven, research-based strategies to equip teens and young adults to reach their potential
Pre-Order Here

The post Does What We Watch Really Affect Us? appeared first on Growing Leaders.

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This week, Americans celebrate our anniversary as a nation. But did you know that when the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain, and those who did were considered radical.

Although some politicians advocated independence from England—the average American, from any of the original colonies—wasn’t too hot on the idea.

Just one year before Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, the desire for complete independence from the “mother country” was a radical idea. Those who embraced it were outliers, on the margins, living on the edge.

That’s usually how change takes place.

It starts with a few people who step forward with a radical idea. It’s so different from mainstream thinking that others mock it or laugh at it or consider it preposterous. People certainly did back in 1775 as the initial conflict ignited. Over time, however, things evolve. The idea gets some airplay. More folks buy in. Eventually, it doesn’t feel quite so radical. People consider the possibilities, especially if their current reality becomes increasingly tough.

So what changed people’s minds about independence in those early days?

  1. American’s witnessed a confirmation of those radical thoughts as British soldiers mistreated colonists.
  2. American’s began consuming pamphlets, like “Common Sense” written by Thomas Paine in 1776 that offered logical rationale to readers.
  3. American’s had enough time to get used to the idea, and the original small group became a critical mass of people.

Reflect on the progress we’ve made in our land due to this sequence of events:

  • The American Revolution.
  • The Abolitionist Movement.
  • The Women’s Rights Movement.
  • The Civil Rights Movement.

So—what marvelous and radical ideas do you have today? Have you collected a small group of people who buy into it like you do? Have you written anything that explains why the idea is an improvement? Have you given people enough time to embrace it?

As you celebrate Independence Day this week, don’t forget we still need positive change. Maybe you’re the person who needs to step up.

The post The Importance of Radical Independence appeared first on Growing Leaders.

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Self-esteem for kids has been a hot topic for fifty years. In the late 1960s, books were written for educators and parents about the need to affirm young people; for teens to “find themselves,” believe in themselves and express themselves. It was an epiphany for Builder generation parents who often felt kids should be seen more than heard.

As Baby Boomers became parents, we determined we would raise our children in an era of high self-esteem—giving them trophies just for participating; building the family calendar around their events, passing out money just for being part of the family and telling them they are awesome just for making their bed. We created a Millennial generation who often wasn’t ready for the stark realities of adulthood. (Employers may not have been so quick to affirm them for doing what’s expected).

At this point, however, I believe it’s time to revisit the self-esteem issue. Something has happened that none of us was ready for.

Why Self-Esteem is an Issue Today

While I believe the self-esteem movement went awry, the issue is as important today as it’s ever been, thanks to the emotional highs and lows students now experience from social media. These digital platforms brought several unintended consequences that frequently overshadow their positive benefits.

Yesterday, I blogged about the negative impact social media has had on Generation Z. I cited data on their increased loneliness, anxiety, envy, narcissism, panic attacks and depression, due in no small part to the presence of social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and others. The four outcomes I noted are:

  • Teens rely on others’ feedback too much for their emotional wellbeing.
  • Teens buy into cognitive distortions about their worth and identity.
  • Teens gain their sense of identity from information instead of application.
  • Teens see themselves as victims rather than leaders in their interactions.
Four Steps Students Can Take to Build Their Self-Esteem

Given this reality—what can we do as caring adults to kindle healthy self-esteem in our young? Since social media is not going away, can we help them during those hours they are on it and off of it, to develop a robust sense of identity? Absolutely. Let me offer four ideas below I encourage students to practice.

1. Tell yourself the truth.

When something is posted online, it becomes very difficult for a victim to erase it from their memories much less the social media platform. In this scenario, students must learn to fight cognitive distortions about who they are. They must believe the best about themselves and speak the truth about who they are. When I wake up every morning, I say four affirmations out loud to myself, before I exercise and shower. These affirmations are true statements clarifying who I am and the mission I pursue. This practice may need to be preceded by identifying any cognitive distortions you’re embracing, such as: I am a loser. I’m never going to get any better. I always ruin the party for everyone. No one likes me. Helping them think objectively then speak truthfully are essential steps in this process.

2. Focus on others instead of yourself.

Human beings are wired to be happier and emotionally healthier when we target our attention toward others, not just ourselves. This doesn’t mean we fail to practice self-care. It simply means that narcissism is the worst enemy of happiness. When I begin to feel down about myself on social media, I gain perspective by serving the needs of others or affirming them on those sites. While this sounds like a platitude, it’s actually backed up by research. Dr. Marianna Pogosyan writes in Psychology Today: “Research has found many examples of how doing good, in ways big or small, not only feels good, but also does us good. For instance, the well-being-boosting and depression-lowering benefits of volunteering have been repeatedly documented. As has the sense of meaning and purpose that often accompanies altruistic behavior…Moreover, there is now neural evidence from fMRI studies suggesting a brain link between generosity and happiness.”

3. Use your talent in a way that makes you proud.

When we transition our self-esteem from mere information (my mom told me I’m a good artist or I’m a caring person) to application (I actually created a piece of art or helped an elderly neighbor carry their groceries inside) we actually take a big step in building a robust self-image. Actions always speak louder than words. I see too many students who have “artificial self-esteem” because it’s all built on mom’s praise, not on their own achievement. Certainly there is a balance; I am not negating the power of affirmation from others. I just believe that negative comments on social media pale in comparison to the strength of knowing I have actually done something significant. Other’s opinions are less important and false criticism becomes hollow. I take my self-esteem into my own hands.

4. Join an environment that builds healthy self-esteem.

Finally, I encourage students to participate in a community that will enhance their self-image. It enables me to choose my sense of identity through the associations I have around me regularly. You’ve probably heard the phrase: “You will become the middle of the five closest people you hand around.” There is some truth in that statement. Social media can be overwhelming in a teen’s life. However, if this is creating a problem in a teen’s life, Sage Day suggests, “there are viable alternatives, like therapeutic and alternative schools for teens. These schools create a safe learning environment, while helping to restore self-esteem, and provide the encouragement and support your teen may need.”

New Habitudes Course:
Social & Emotional Learning

Our Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning curriculum uses memorable imagery, real-life stories and practical experiences to teach timeless skills in a way that is relevant to students today. Students are constantly using images to communicate via emojis, Instagram, and Snapchat. Why not utilize their favorite language to bridge the gap between learning and real-life application?

Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning helps middle and high school students:

  • Develop habits of self-discipline and initiative
  • Implement time management skills to do what really counts
  • Plan for personal growth outside the classroom
  • Identify their unique strengths and passions for a healthy self-image
  • And many more social and emotional skills

Click on the link below today to learn more about Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning!

Learn More

The post How to Develop Positive Self-Esteem in Teens appeared first on Growing Leaders.

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While social media platforms have had a positive effect on some kids’ self-esteem, (including those who become YouTube famous), it has had a negative effect on the majority of them. Sooner or later, each young person observes posts that:

  • Make them feel worse about themselves. (Cyber-bullying)
  • Cause them to feel they’re missing out on a better life. (Fear of Missing Out)
  • Expose them to a post where they are caught in a “fail.” (Fear of Messing Up)

Brenda is the mother of Gina, a 13-year old eighth grader who just got a smart phone this past school year. Brenda told me that up until now, Gina was a happy, expressive and well-adjusted young teen who spent most of her free time with friends. Six months into her phone ownership—she’s been a different girl. Her mom told to me recently that Gina has been melancholy, negative and even combative in her relationships of late: “It’s like she turned from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.”

Have you seen social media do this to anyone you know?

What Happens on the Phone Doesn’t Stay on the Phone

The band, “The Chainsmokers” released a song in 2018 called, “Sick Boy.” It’s all about how people are now “sick” from their digital lifestyle. The song’s refrain says it all:

“Feed yourself with my life’s work. How many ‘likes’ is my life worth?”

Behavioral scientist Clarissa Silva conducted in-depth interviews with social media users from all age groups and discovered three unhealthy facts:

  • 60 percent reported it had a negative effect on their self-esteem.
  • 50 percent indicated it had a negative effect on their relationships.
  • 80 percent shared it was easier to be deceived on social media platforms.

Silva , “Social media has been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression, narcissism and decreased social skills. As a Behavioral Scientist, I wonder what causes this paradox? The narratives we share and portray on social media are all positive and celebratory. It’s a hybridized digital version of “Keeping up with the Joneses”. Meaning for some, sometimes it appears everyone you know are in great relationships, taking 5-star vacations and living your dream life. However, what is shared across our social networks only broadcasts the positive aspects of our lives-the highlight reels.”

Our 2017 Focus Groups with middle school students repeated an idea we eventually grew accustomed to. Kids said: I draw my primary sense of identity from social media. Not my family; not my team I play on; not where I sit in the lunch room; not my faith and not my talents. It’s the “emotional roller coaster” of social media responses.

The Problem with Social Media 

The problem snuck up on most parents and educators. We didn’t see it coming. Below, I voice four primary issues at stake that negatively impacts self-esteem:

1. We rely on others’ feedback far too much for our emotional well-being.

Adolescents have always put too much stock in what their peers think about them, but today, that problem is on steroids. Because the comments of others never go away (if we have a phone), our addiction to the opinions of peers is far too loud and means far too much. It puts us at the mercy of the reactions of others. Any time a person needs the approval of others to feel good about themselves, they place themselves in a risky position. Our identity should always be placed in realities that cannot be taken away.

2. We buy into cognitive distortions about our worth and identity.

Students are prone to believe lies about themselves, feeling they’re worse than they really are or better than they really are. A YouTuber, for instance, can accumulate an arrogant narrative about their identity merely because they get social rewards for a silly video they posted. Others can spiral downward from the external voices coming at them. We can begin to tell ourselves lies. Instead of acknowledging, “I failed” we begin assuming, “I’m a failure.” Our goal should be to become conscious of the narrative we tell ourselves and insure it is truthful and hopeful. We must choose our cognitive story on purpose.

3. We gain our sense of identity from information instead of application.

Too often, a 21st century student can draw their self-image merely from what is said about them, rather than what they’ve actually done. I believe words are never enough. Talk is cheap. Even a parent’s affirmation must translate into action on their part of their child. A genuine and robust self-esteem must come from both affirmation and achievement. If we’re getting boosts of serotonin from wrong places, we will eventually suffer from it. Self-esteem moves from artificial to authentic when it’s derived from action not mere words.

4. We see ourselves as victims not leaders in our interactions.

The presence of social media can coerce a student to feel like a victim in life, always on the defense against other’s comments, likes, shares, views and retweets. In fact, like Gina (above) our demeanor can look like a victim instead of someone who’s taking initiative and leading themselves and others well. Healthy people and leaders act more than react. They are secure in who they are (strengths and weaknesses) and interact with others from that foundation.

Tomorrow, I will post some steps we can take to build healthy self-esteem in teens who are on social media and have suffered emotionally from it.

New Book: Generation Z Unfiltered
Preorder Package $24.99

Our new book is now available for preorder! This generation of students who have grown up in the 21st century are the most social, the most empowered, and also the most anxious youth population in human history. If you are struggling to connect with and lead them, you are not alone. The latest research presented in this book, however, illuminates a surprising reality: The success of the next generation doesn’t depend entirely on them. Their best chance of success starts when adults choose to believe in them, challenge them, and walk with them through the nine greatest challenges today’s youth will face. For their sake, and for the future success of our world, it’s time we started seeing Generation Z—unfiltered.

From decades of research and hands-on experience, Dr. Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak collate their conclusions into one resource that helps adults:

  • Understand the differences between Generation Z and previous generations – including the Millennials (Generation Y)
  • Discover the nine unique challenges that Generation Z is currently facing and how you can help them practically address each one
  • Develop coping skills in students to help them overcome their high levels of stress and anxiety
  • Cultivate grit and resilience in young adults that will allow them to bounce back from future setbacks
  • Apply proven, research-based strategies to equip teens and young adults to reach their potential
Pre-Order Here

The post The Negative Impact of Social Media on a Teen’s Self-Esteem appeared first on Growing Leaders.

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If you’re a teacher, you know the sounds that surround you after the final day of classes in the spring. It’s deafening silence. No students are chatting or yelling. No one is asking you to do something for them. No rustling in the hallways. No noise at all.

The spring semester is over, and summer is here. At least for two months, right? But that doesn’t mean you won’t be working during June and July. It just means your work will look different. The emotional expense of your day declines. You have a little more margin as an educator. For nine to ten months, you have taken care of others. Now—it’s time to take care of yourself.

So, what should you do?

Let’s Get Real

The first reality we should come to grips with is that we all have different ways of refreshing ourselves. I will be the last person to tell you that “self care” must look a certain way for everyone. In fact, consider these facts:

1. We all have a different capacity.

Some educators run out of “emotional fuel” rapidly. They have a lower capacity for projects and people. Others can take on lots more and not feel spent. You need to discern how you need to recover from your year.

2. We all are energized differently.

Some of us are energized by time alone. Others, by time with people, depending on our Myers Briggs Temperament Indicator. You should discover what enables you to gain energy and feel at your best.

3. We all need different amounts of sleep and rest.

Everyone I know understands their sleep cycle. As a Type One Diabetic, I need eight hours of sleep each night to perform at my best over a week’s time. This summer is a great time for you to catch up on your cycle.

What we all have in common is that we need to refresh ourselves periodically. Every human has the innate need to refuel. Passion for an issue does not equal preparation for it. We must be emotionally prepared for any new task, knowing it will consume some of what’s in our emotional tank.

Most of us are guilty of becoming “starving bakers.” It’s one of our Habitudes. These are images that form leadership habits and attitudes. The Starving Baker is the baker who spend so much time baking bread for others, he forgets to eat, and he starves himself. Do you see any metaphor here that illustrates your life? It’s the number one occupational hazard for leaders and teachers. So just how do we feed ourselves?

During Summer Months—Recharge and Refresh:

1. We should cultivate an identity beyond teaching.

It’s helpful to remember teaching is what you do, not just who you are. We should always place our sense of identity in something that can’t be taken away from us. Some suggest we should add a hyphen to our identity: we are a teacher-mom. Or, a teacher-friend. Or, a teacher-reader.

2. We should be students during the summer—and learn something new.

Why not reverse roles and approach summer months looking for “input” in your life, learning something new about a subject you’re interested in. Growth comes from seeking and discovering new and relevant insights. Choose a topic and go for it. Read, interview, view, and visit to learn.

3. We should join a community that is different and new to us.

One way I have refreshed myself in the past is to join a group of leaders or a learning community I had no association with in the past. It was a summer commitment. Winston Churchill said, “Change is as good a rest.” I’ve found it not only helps me grow but it exercises a new part of my brain.

5. We should let ourselves rest and relax without feeling guilty.

Forty years ago, Tim Hansel wrote a book called, When I Relax I Feel Guilty. It has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Why? Most of us experience guilt for pushing pause and just chilling, with no agenda. I suffer from this myself. I need to remind myself that I will be more valuable at my work when I DO relax.

6. We should fully engage with our family and loved ones.

During a busy school year, we can be distracted from family and those we love most. Summer may just be the best time to fully engage with our loved ones and give them our undivided attention. Take trips, play games, grab coffee times and pay full attention to the people who’ll still be in your life after you retire.

New Book: Generation Z Unfiltered
Preorder Package $24.99

Our new book is now available for preorder! This generation of students who have grown up in the 21st century are the most social, the most empowered, and also the most anxious youth population in human history. If you are struggling to connect with and lead them, you are not alone. The latest research presented in this book, however, illuminates a surprising reality: The success of the next generation doesn’t depend entirely on them. Their best chance of success starts when adults choose to believe in them, challenge them, and walk with them through the nine greatest challenges today’s youth will face. For their sake, and for the future success of our world, it’s time we started seeing Generation Z—unfiltered.

From decades of research and hands-on experience, Dr. Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak collate their conclusions into one resource that helps adults:

  • Understand the differences between Generation Z and previous generations – including the Millennials (Generation Y)
  • Discover the nine unique challenges that Generation Z is currently facing and how you can help them practically address each one
  • Develop coping skills in students to help them overcome their high levels of stress and anxiety
  • Cultivate grit and resilience in young adults that will allow them to bounce back from future setbacks
  • Apply proven, research-based strategies to equip teens and young adults to reach their potential
Pre-Order Here

The post Six Ways Leaders Can Recharge and Refresh This Summer appeared first on Growing Leaders.

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We all remember the story. It was Valentine’s Day in 2018. The tragic and awful school shooting that happened last year in Parkland, Florida. In all, 17 people died on campus that day, including students, staff and faculty at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.

One story within this unfolding tragedy captured my imagination. I believe it’s one that serves as a cautionary tale for those of us who lead students.

Criminal Charges Were Brought Against the Resource Officer

Resource officer Scot Peterson now faces charges over what authorities describe as “inaction in a mass shooting in Florida.”

You see, Officer Peterson had been hired to protect people on campus from such a school shooting. In fact, more and more security staff have been employed since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

According to USA Today, “Peterson faces seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence, and one count of perjury. He was at work on campus that day when the shooting started, and when he arrived at the freshman building the carnage was still in progress. The arrest warrant claims Peterson stayed outside, moving several feet to a position of ‘increased personal safety’ before six of the victims were fatally shot. The charge accuses him of “failing, declining or refusing to confront the shooter.”

How bizarre. This man wasn’t charged with doing something wrong. He was charged for not doing something he should have done.

What is Our Take Away?

Fortunately, you and I are not likely in such grave danger as we guide the students in our care. But like Officer Peterson, we are vulnerable to play “defense” instead of “offense” when it comes to our job. Guiding Generation Z, in a world full of social media, terrorism, polarization, angry parents, reduced budgets, cyberbullying, stress, litigation, and school shootings is not easy. In fact, it can be downright intimidating. Millions of kids today live lives that are too saturated, too sedentary, and too solitary.

  • It’s scary.
  • It’s uncertain.
  • It’s overwhelming.

Just like Scot Peterson, we’re afraid. It feels too dangerous to act. What if we make a mistake? So, we just hide and wait. I see too many parents doing nothing. I see leaders defaulting to what they’ve always done. I see teachers merely imitating past pedagogies and coaches just emulating past emotional outbursts. Why? It’s too much work to change. We are satisfied with merely surviving. Here are four ideas to move in the right direction:

1. Initiate action.

We can’t afford to wait for someone to do our job for us. We must take initiative. We must make changes where we are not succeeding. Even if our solution isn’t strategic, taking a first step can lead to the right step.

2. Include students in the solution.

The best way to get buy-in from kids is to invite them into the problem-solving process. They will support what they help create. When answers are a joint effort, adults and students can both enjoy “ownership” of making life better.

3. Imagine the best not the worst.

I’ve noticed when I fail to initiate, it’s difficult to imagine life getting better. I see worst case scenarios inside my mind. Our best leadership will arise when we envision our kids at their best and help them see that vision too.

4. Inspire them with the big picture.

Finally, we must always act in light of the bigger picture. Everyone has bad days, including you and your students. I believe we must find ways to keep the “box top” in front of us and our students as we put our “puzzle” together.

Years ago, I heard a funny story of a police academy on its final day of examinations. The officer proctoring the exam described an overwhelming scenario for his class of trainees—complete with a bank robbery, a fire hydrant spewing out water, a person being mugged, a wild car chase and people screaming as they ran in every direction. Each cadet was to offer what he or she felt would be their response to this horrifying situation. The most honest answer came from the back of the room. The young trainee stood up and replied, “Remove uniform. Mingle with crowd.”

This is a decision we can’t afford to make. Let’s act now.

Order Now: Marching Off the Map
Inspire Students to Navigate a Brand New World

Leading today’s students often feels like being in a new country with old maps that don’t work. Understanding and connecting with the generation in this land is often times frustrating and draining. We need new strategies on how to march off our old maps and create new ones.

From decades of research and hands-on experience, Dr. Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak collate their conclusions into one resource that helps adults:

  • Inspire students to own their education and their future
  • Lead students from an attitude of apathy to one of passion through metacognition
  • Enable students to push back from the constant digital distractions and practice mindfulness
  • Raise kids who make healthy progress, both emotionally and mentally, through their teenage years
  • Give students the tools to handle the complexities of an ever-changing world
  • Understand and practically apply the latest research on Generation Z
Order Here

The post One Decision We Can’t Afford to Make with Our Kids appeared first on Growing Leaders.

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I have two friends who are sales people. Neither of them receives a base salary for their job, but both are making a good paycheck each month. They work completely off of commissions. When they make a sale, they make some money. Not only is their career going well, I’d say I don’t know anyone with a greater work ethic than these two individuals.  Why is this true?

Their job is completely based upon incentive.

Incentive and Entitlement

A sales job like theirs may not be the kind of job you’d like, but it does illustrate how incentive ignites action. These guys can’t assume any benefit will come their way unless they go after it. Income is not a right; it is a responsibility for people like this. In other words, they don’t assume they’re entitled to anything unless they work for it.

This is a picture of a principle in life.

A sense of entitlement has crept into our daily lives today. Not just young people, but almost all of us. We feel we have a right to perks that would have been luxuries a hundred years ago—things like air conditioning, indoor toilets, carpeted homes, automobiles, phones, televisions and entertainment. We expect these realities and complain when we don’t get them promptly. Me included. We feel they are a right.

Whenever we assume something is a right—we tend to lose incentive to earn it.

You see, entitlement tends to nudge me to look outward for my answers, while incentive nudges me to look inward. It’s the difference between rights and responsibilities. When I think I’m entitled to something, I assume someone will act on my behalf. When I think I am responsible for something, I assume I must act.

I remember years ago when serving downtown in a soup kitchen, I enjoyed putting on some gloves and working in the food line, making sure that lunches were given to anyone who entered the door. Newcomers were always the most grateful recipients. They smiled and said thank you over and over. They perceived the meal as a privilege. I noticed over time, however, that the free food was perceived differently by those people. Many stopped thanking us and began complaining when something wasn’t hot enough or they didn’t get a big enough helping. What happened? The privilege became a right. They felt entitled.

Building Incentive in Students

Too often, we’ve cultivated a sense of entitlement in our young people. I don’t blame them for it; they grew up under our leadership and we fostered it in them. We felt it was our job to give them perks that years ago were items kids worked for. Over time, we stole their incentive. When adult leaders rush to give privileges to our young, we treat those privileges as a right they possess. Minimally, they lose incentive to work for it. Let me offer a simple concept to diminish their sense of entitlement.

We must utilize the times when they have the greatest incentive for gain.

When our child, our student, or our athlete begins to demand, assume or desire something, we must do a motive check on the situation: who has the greater incentive for benefit- them or you? If it’s them, you will diminish their sense of entitlement by leveraging their incentive to get it. If they stand to gain, make that clear.

I’ve written before about my friend David and his son, Nick. Years ago, Nick wanted a new iPod that had just come out. Standing in the Apple store, Nick convinced his dad that this iPod would soon sell out and he’d lose his chance to get it. When David asked his son if he had the money to pay for it, Nick replied, “No! But we gotta get it or they’ll sell out!”

David told me later, “I had my credit card, but I also knew there were other issues at stake. I could either cultivate Nick’s sense of entitlement by buying it for him, or I could find a way to build work ethic in him. I was in a quandary: I wanted my son to get what he wanted but I wanted him to understand incentive.”

David came up with a wise solution. He bought the iPod for Nick but told him he would hold onto it while Nick made monthly payments on it. Once Nick paid it off, he would give it to him. David told me when Nick made the final payment, he became “the most grateful teenager in the world.”

Nick’s incentive was fostered because his dad had him work and wait for it.

Reducing Entitlement in Young Adults Today

Below are two scenarios you can leverage at home to reduce entitlement:

  • They want that great job one day—but they hate school.

Show them the connection between getting their diploma or degree and the outcome they want. Don’t try to remove the work.

  • They want a car when they get their driver’s license.

Instead of buying a car for them, let them know you’ll go half on the purchase. This will incentivize them to get a job and save their money.

Here’s a case study from education. A new experiment at a high school in New Haven, CT ended the year with “shocking” results: not a single one of the 44 first-time freshmen earned enough credits to move up to sophomore year.

The teachers, newly empowered to break from traditional practices, have begun to reinvent the high school experience by switching freshmen to a self-paced system where kids move up only when they’ve “mastered” specific skills. The goal is to make sure kids learn something instead of breezing through school with D’s. Unlike students at other schools, these 44 kids won’t have to repeat their freshman year. They’ll get an opportunity to finish their work over a new, four-week summer school. Then, if they need more time, they can start off the year right where they left off, instead of repeating entire classes. The key is they have to earn their progress.

The incentive is all theirs.

New Book: Generation Z Unfiltered
Preorder Package $24.99

Our new book is now available for preorder! This generation of students who have grown up in the 21st century are the most social, the most empowered, and also the most anxious youth population in human history. If you are struggling to connect with and lead them, you are not alone. The latest research presented in this book, however, illuminates a surprising reality: The success of the next generation doesn’t depend entirely on them. Their best chance of success starts when adults choose to believe in them, challenge them, and walk with them through the nine greatest challenges today’s youth will face. For their sake, and for the future success of our world, it’s time we started seeing Generation Z—unfiltered.

From decades of research and hands-on experience, Dr. Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak collate their conclusions into one resource that helps adults:

  • Understand the differences between Generation Z and previous generations – including the Millennials (Generation Y)
  • Discover the nine unique challenges that Generation Z is currently facing and how you can help them practically address each one
  • Develop coping skills in students to help them overcome their high levels of stress and anxiety
  • Cultivate grit and resilience in young adults that will allow them to bounce back from future setbacks
  • Apply proven, research-based strategies to equip teens and young adults to reach their potential
Pre-Order Here

The post The Connection Between Incentive and Entitlement appeared first on Growing Leaders.

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With summer upon us, many parents are processing how their kids can best use their time. It’s a difficult balance to strike. Too often, a typical school year consists of mom rushing her kids through a drive-through, grabbing some chicken nuggets and hustling over to a practice or rehearsal. Multiple times a week. What’s missing?

  • Genuine, meaningful conversations.
  • Rest from all the noise and clutter.
  • Time for reflection and planning.

So many families never stop to connect with each other or find the time for personal growth. It seems activity instead of growth is the goal. Just stay busy. Avoid boredom. But is this really what we want?

Is this the story we want to tell our grandkids later?

Making Good Summer Decisions: Practice SWAP

Instead of simply letting summer “happen,” why not practice Summer With A Purpose? This means, you approach the few months of summer with a plan for both growth and relaxation. Learning and laughter. In these months, you can make up for the activities or refreshment they don’t get during a busy school year.

I’d like to toss out some ideas for you to consider if you’ve got kids between the ages of 12 and 21 at your house. (These ages are our sweet spot at Growing Leaders). None of these ideas require a rocket scientist to figure them out and implement them. They will, however, require an intentional leader to set them up.

1. Determine the quality time you want to have with family.

Early on, it’s wise to choose how much time you’d like to enjoy together and lay out those boundaries first. How many meals each week will you have as a family? How much activity will your kids need to keep them active but not hyper-active? What do your kids need most during June and July that they may not get at school?

2. Help them choose a theme or path.

What will the summer include? Will there be key activities it will revolve around? Will your kids get the sleep they need? How about the margins they need? Instead of allowing the summer months to be haphazard, why not plan the path? When you choose a summer theme, it’s easier to coordinate goals and vacations around it.

3. Implement a reading plan.

When my kids were growing up, I challenged them to read certain books and paid them for reading them and providing a report. (I didn’t let them fake their reading). My kids didn’t become avid readers, but they did especially enjoy the biographies of life-giving leaders they read. If we pay them for chores…why not pay them to grow?

4. Vacation with a purpose.

Once you know your theme, why not choose a vacation that fits? Every other year, our family chooses a purposeful place to visit where we will both enjoy our moments together and grow as well. This year, we visited Washington D.C. and discussed the incredible leaders who make up American history. Two years ago, we visited London and Paris and learned lots about our European heritage. Everyone helped to plan it.

5. Choose a service project.

Depending on the temperaments of your kids, you can choose a service project or mission trip to do together, or each member can do it individually. We’ve served in local soup kitchens and even gone on trips to serve the underprivileged in different parts of the world. Since service was one of our family core values, it was something we expected to do.

6. Prepare for the next school year.

As you near August, what if you asked your kids to plan some goals for the next school year and then go out to a fun restaurant and discuss them? As you lead them, make sure they don’t overdo the sporting events, practices, etc. Help them find balance in their week and find time for sleep and unsupervised activity. Three practices a week or multiple sports often intrudes on a balanced family life.

Bottom line? What if you made a SWAP and gave your summer meaning?

The post Six Ways to Help Students Make Good Summer Decisions appeared first on Growing Leaders.

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