Posts Tagged ‘youth’

The Upside of Failing

June 9, 2010

Failure is NOT always a bad thing. Sometimes failing is what motivates, inspires and teaches us what it takes to be successful. Yet, too many educators and youth advocates view failure as something to be avoided at all cost. While they are usually well meaning, they are often dead wrong. In fact, by building environments that NEVER allow kids to fail, we are actually letting our kids down by not allowing them to gain the necessary experience to deal with the inevitable rejection and failure that happens to all of us who are human.

School districts put social promotion policies in place to “protect” a failing students self esteem. I think that is misguided on many levels. Isn’t it worse for a student’s self esteem to know that if they do not understand day one lessons and that they have an entire year of being lost ahead of them? Isn’t it better to let them try again to master the content and gain the skills needed for them to earn the opportunity to move up to the next set of challenges? That way students they will internalize that they can do, not just be told that they can do it!

Youth sports programs that don’t keep score so that the loosing team doesn’t know they lost do not seem to understand that many kids (not to mention parents) keep score anyway; and by not officially keeping score aren’t we really telling kids that loosing is so terrible we should pretend it did not even happen? In many coaches pitch baseball leagues they do not even let a hitter strike out for fear they will feel bad. But which is worse for a kid – taking three swings and sitting down or taking swing after swing after swing after swing while everyone on both teams watches you miss the ball? The inability to hit a ball may lead to a decision that baseball is not for them OR a decision to work on it until they can hit the ball.

There are too many examples of how failure has been central to some of the greatest successes and most successful people in history to continue to believe all failure should be eliminated from the lives of our children. Failure turning into success has not only been demonstrated by “great people” in history, but also in the daily experience of “regular people” whose failures have brought out the best in themselves and the people around them. I do believe as parents, teachers, coaches and concerned adults we should do everything we can do to help our kids be successful. But just saying and acting as if they are successful when they are not is not always helpful.

Here is a short but GREAT video that I came across that can help students, teachers and parents remember that failure can and usually is an important part of success. Don’t Be Afraid of Failure:


Millenials – Much more than ‘Just’ an Entitled Generation

May 27, 2010

There are people who believe entitlement is a word that characterizes millenials (ages between approximately 13 – 25 years old). I do believe there is SOME truth and evidence to support the idea that millenials feel a sense of entitlement. However, I think what millenials feel entitled to is often misunderstood. I believe millenials do share a sense of entitlement to being treated fairly, with respect and to having an opportunity to be judged and rewarded on their merits rather than on seniority, appearance, race, income, religion, gender or sexual orientation. I believe millenials grew up with a sense of urgency as they watched events around them including natural disasters, terrorism and the challenges of a global economy in real time due to the digital age in which they grew up and it is their sense of urgency that may be confused with arrogance or feelings of entitlement.

Beyond the sense of entitlement that millenials may or may not share however, there is evidence that millenials are actively working and achieving to make themselves, their communities and their world better. Millenials are more likely to become entrepreneurs than most other generations. Millenials are more likely to value social responsibility in the companies they work for as well as the companies where they spend their money. Millenials volunteer more than any generation since the WW2 generation. They may be doing this out of youthful optimism or altruism OR maybe it is because they feel let down by government, churches/non-profits, team sports and the companies their parents used to work for that they perceive were not looking out for their interests or showing them any loyalty.

I come to my opinions after speaking to high school students in their classrooms almost every day for the last 12+ years. By speaking in classrooms versus faceless auditoriums, I have been able to interact and connect with youth in a much more personal way. I understand that some millenials have not been helped by misguided adults who believe in promotion of self-esteem over competency in school, sports and parenting. Too often social promotion in schools, not keeping score in sports or overly positive parents have laid a misguided sense of self. But for every one of those lazy, crazy or unrealistic kids we see portrayed on the news for negative reasons, I believe there are thousands who are not crazy and hundreds who are absolutely amazing! What youth need more than anything is honest feedback, sincere and frequent praise when the do well and support from adults along with realistic, not cynical and bitter, guidance as to what is possible and impossible. When a youngster says they want to be a doctor, play in the NBA, make the world a better place or fill in the blank here, please do NOT tell them they can’t do that. Tell them that’s great and ask them what they will need to do to make their dreams come true. You might be surprised what they are willing to do and how much harder they will work in the pursuit of turning their dreams into a better reality for all of us!