While I was out of state at a conference this summer I heard a college President say that his school’s counseling office had seen a 38 percent increase in students. He followed up with a long dialogue about how children “these days” have a difficult time coping with their problems.
His first hand experience validates the current Gen Z research. A 2017 research article simply stated that, “Generation Z is not aware of the concept of struggle.” A 2012 survey of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors found that 95 percent of counselors were seeing a rapid rise in psychological issues on campuses. Who is to blame for this? That’s not a simple answer, and I’m not sure you can pinpoint the exact causation.
However, I am convinced that you can’t blame it on Gen Z."
Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed wrote, “Interestingly we [parents] are pushing for high achievement….yet, shielding from experiences that create growth.”
This line hits the nail on the head for me. Through my education, my time coaching and teaching, and my time leading, this line continues to ring true.
Here are two ways we can begin to help our young people grow through trying experiences.
1. For kids to be able to deal with life's difficulties and obstacles they must practice dealing with these difficulties and obstacles in a safe environment.
Tim Elmore founder of Growing Leaders suggested we [parents] make three major mistakes.
It is crucial that we allow our students to fail, struggle, suffer in safe environments and at developmentally appropriate times. Often, life’s events are uncontrollable, but when we can allow students to deal with adversity we must not miss the opportunity.
Parents, make your child do something hard. Make them apologize to an adult or ask a teacher about a problem face to face.
Teachers, when that student comes to you about a problem, recognize that they are doing a hard thing and treat them with respect.
Youth leaders, find ways in your youth group to rally around the broken in your church. Allow them to experience suffering with their peers, and create a safe environment for them to be open and honest.
While we shelter our kids with our best intentions, it leads to the formation of a fixed mindset in them. A person with a fixed mindset will not grow, learn, or try new things. These are the people that say can’t, won’t, and quit easily. They avoid failure and tend to be complacent. We can teach them to say can, will, and to persevere.
2. For kids to be able to deal with life's difficulties and obstacles they must develop a growth mindset.
In contrast, researcher Dr. Carol Dweck encourages leaders, teachers, and parents to develop growth mindsets in their children. It’s a complex theory that can be broken down to two simple thoughts.
First, growth mindset means that your ability to learn is not fixed, and it can change with your effort. Let’s encourage our students to learn and grow within their own personal interests. Don’t force them into something they don’t like, and don’t have higher expectations for them than you should.
Remember, not all kids will be mathematicians and that’s okay, but they will love something. Encourage growth in those loves."
An important second aspect of a growth mindset is that failure is not a permanent condition. In other words, failure is temporary and should be used as an opportunity to grow. An individual with a growth mindset owns failure. When our children make mistakes, whether it involves disciplinary action or just a bad grade, be careful how you handle it and address it. When your child makes a mistake, maybe your response should be, “I’m glad I know about this because we can use this opportunity to grow.”
Research shows that children who don’t learn how to deal with failure go on to struggle with relationship development as adults. We must mold our kids into the adults they deserve to be. We can do that now by standing by their side as the fail, succeed, and learn how to recover and grow from both.
We’ve been entrusted with a lot. We’re not just responsible for the first 18 years of our children's lives. The way we teach them today will mold their decision making and problem solving skills for their adult lives as well. It may be harder today, but it will make all of us better in the long run.
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