Seven Changes that Affect Every Generation

If you were born before 1980, I’m sure you’ve noticed an interesting trend: it seems that every generation of adults looks at the newest batch of kids and is sure they are the worst bunch of rebels our world has ever seen. Thousands of years ago, Socrates wrote of the misguided youth in Greece and was sure they were “good for nothing”. He actually wrote that kids in his day were:

  • Lazy
  • Disrespectful
  • Lacking in responsibility

Doesn’t that sound strangely familiar?

I’ve noticed something else as I’ve studied today’s newest batch of students, the ones I call Generation iY. (They’re the kids born since 1990 — the second half of Generation Y — that some sociologists believe are the first portion of Generation Z.) What I’ve noticed is that we adults, on some levels, are guilty of the same negative elements we point out in them.

With each generation, changes take place. There are patterns to be observed that leaders should take note of today. For instance, I have noticed…

  1. With each new generation, time becomes more valuable.
  2. With each new generation, expectations of convenience and service rise.
  3. With each new generation, the demand for work to have meaning intensifies.
  4. With each new generation, the hunger for options grows.
  5. With each new generation, the sense of entitlement increases.
  6. With each new generation, the need for speed and space goes up.
  7. With each new generation, the desire for customization expands.


By knowing these realities, we can take a step forward in mentoring students. And let’s face it: the newest technologies (and the conveniences that come with them) affect all of us, not just the kids. This has always been true. When we were growing up, our parents, teachers and coaches often called uslazy slackers.

The key is to understand the current reality students face and ask: What life skills are they missing?Then, we must search out an activity to prescribe that will enable them to develop these timeless qualities they’ll need in life and in leadership. Sometimes the answer to both can be quite simple.

One Simple Secret a Mother and Her Daughter Discovered

For example, a couple of months ago, I posted a blog about how many in the emerging generation of students lacked ambition, discipline and, in fact, were moving back home after finishing school with no plan for the future. One woman replied and told me her daughter was a “case study” on what I had just written about. Her daughter often slept in late and had no passion for anything.

In the blog, I suggested we must introduce activities that will cultivate timeless virtues in young people—then watch what happens. I just received an update from this woman:

Months ago, I responded to your blog in respect to my 25-year old daughter who was sleeping until noon. After reading your blog today, I thought I’d share the hobby she has taken up that has really helped her: sewing. (Yes, you read that word correctly). It has many of the attributes that you mentioned about sports—you must slowly keep working on the process; you must keep learning and getting better. Each week, you can see progress on the specific project you’re working on when you sew. It requires much preparation and planning; it is a lot of tedious work; it usually includes mistakes that you must re-do. But the process pays off in the end. As a seamstress, you eventually get to see a finished product. My daughter is getting much enjoyment from sewing and has quit watching so much TV. She is also getting to bed earlier and getting up earlier. Thanks for your blogs. I gave her a Habitudes book as a graduation present this year.

A Diagnosis and a Prescription

Can you see what happened? All that this young adult needed was an exercise that would engage her. When she found it, her discipline, ambition, passion and emotional maturity began developing. It required more than an angry parent, more than a lecture, more than added house rules. It required a diagnosis and a prescription. Once again, we must ask ourselves:

  • What are the missing life skills in our young people?
  • What are some engaging activities that would build those life skills?

I have a “heads up” for you that might represent some good news.

In two months, we’ll be releasing an updated version of my book Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future (5th Anniversary Edition). The book contains current research and updated case studies on the newest students on your campus, at your workplace, on your team, or even in your home. I talk about these trends and what we can do about them as adults. I also include diagnoses and prescriptions for how we can better engage this emerging generation.

Let me ask you: Have you noticed these trends above? What have you done to build timeless qualities in students, athletes, young employees, or your own kids?

Find out how adults can equip young people to lead us into the future in our best-selling book Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future.

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Generation iY helps adults:

  • Guide unprepared adolescents and at-risk kids to productive adulthood
  • Correct crippling parenting styles
  • Repair damage from (unintentional) lies we’ve told kids
  • Guide young people toward real success instead of superficial “self-esteem”
  • Adopt education strategies that engage (instead of bore) an “I” generation
  • Employ their strengths and work with their weaknesses on the job

The Case for Well Rounded Kids

photo credit: 12 via photopin (license)

We live in a day when adults are pushing kids to discover their strengths and focus their lives. Thanks to the Gallup organization and author Marcus Buckingham, we have learned to concentrate on building strengths and to only play in that space. Not surprisingly, this has caused parents to hone our styles and launch our kids into football, ballet, piano, theatre, tennis or gymnastics at five years old. As a result, a lot of our kids today have the notion that they can just sharpen their skill until they go pro. We’ve embraced the idea of mental focus.

While this represents progress in many ways, it’s also had its downside. I’m not so sure we’ve embraced the idea of emotional health. Over the long haul, we’re now seeing the outcomes of our leadership styles. Parents, who are convinced they are raising the next Derek Jeter, or Tiger Woods or Serena Williams, push their children to make the grade, make the team, make the dream.

In our work with students, I’ve seen the problem surface in a handful of ways:

1. The Oversized Gift*

Young people cultivate a single gift (or talent), and it becomes their source of identity (sometimes, the sole source). The gift becomes bigger than they are. Soon, they begin to wing it in other areas of their lives, thinking they really don’t need to develop skills in other areas. After all, they’re an incredible ________________. (You fill in the blank: tennis player, singer, actor, musician, dancer, etc). Their growth

becomes distorted and lopsided. Later, when that gift is no longer able to carry them, they’re in trouble.

2. Early Burnout

Young people who are pushed in a single area often burnout early. They get sick of softball, gymnastics, you name it—and end up quitting the very activity they once loved. It was too much, too soon. They needed to have a childhood where they played a variety of games, but they never got it. It may just be my opinion, but kids should never “burn out” in middle school. They should be exploring at 12-13, building general, personal skills that’ll be relevant, regardless of where they end up.

3. Emotionally Unhealthy, Angst-filled Young Adults

Young people who are pushed too soon and too much are vulnerable to a lifestyle of angst and emotional depression. As their brain develops during adolescence, it becomes challenging to navigate the emotional highs and lows of hormone changes and intense competition. It’s especially sad when it’s mom or dad pushing them—simply because they enjoy the competition—but have no idea what it’s doing to their child.

Because we work with several NCAA Division 1 athletic departments, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of coaches, and more of them than ever are telling me they now recruit athletes from multiple sports, not just theirs. The reason? They believe they get a healthier student athlete, one that is more balanced and able to handle the ups and downs of wins and losses. In addition, they get an athlete who isn’t burned out, but one who’s ready and able to give a lot to the sport at 18 or 19 years old. They get happy, well-adjusted players.

Their Source of Stress

I have written much about how stressed out American high school and college students are today. 94% of college students say the number one word they use to describe their life is overwhelmed. In a UK survey, they report that their number one source of stress is their parents. This is negatively affecting everyone.

Dr. Eric Herman, a clinical psychologist at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, tells us that when a parent pushes too much, the result is an overwhelmed child who is too stressed out to get things done. Your child needs to relax and have fun. It will help him recharge his batteries, just as relaxation helps you recharge your batteries.

For the past decade, Daryl Capuano, educator and founder of The Learning Consultants in New Haven, Conn., has been counseling parents on understanding key igniters in motivating children and the harmful effects of nagging. When a child hears a message repeatedly, she starts to view it as a big negative. If you often tell your child, “You are not going to get into college if you don’t study harder,” she might avoid studying or any discussion of college. She could begin to slack off on homework or even skip school. This pressure creates a significant motivation deflation, warns Capuano. Even a very young child can lose interest in playing baseball if he fears he’s not measuring up to his parents’ expectations.

A Balancing Act

I am simply arguing that we must strike a healthy balance in the lives of our students. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, coach or youth worker, we must balance:

1. Helping them find and develop their strengths so they can be productive.

2. Helping them mature emotionally and live healthy, balanced lives.

Here’s to developing well-rounded kids who become well-adjusted adults.

*(“The Oversized Gift” is a Habitude from Book One of the series.)

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