Tag Archives: disempowering

Adulting: How do young people learn life skills?

Flying without a Helicopter Book Cover finalI came across an article in the LA Times today about how college students at UC Berkeley have started up an “adulting” course.  They created a student-run course to teach life skills to each other because they’re not learning them anywhere else.  The question is, why aren’t they learning life skills in life?

One of the students interviewed for the article says that kids don’t learn life skills from their parents because parents don’t trust their kids to be able to handle things.  The parents do it for them.  Schools have also taken life skills off the curricula in favor of academic courses preparing children for standardized tests.

My take on this is that the kids must resort to teaching each other adulting skills because all of the adults in their lives failed to prepare them for adulthood.  Parents, teachers, professors, administrators, and government protection agencies have disempowered children to the point where they don’t know how to take care of themselves when they grow up.

Presumably, these adults had good intentions to protect the children and give them the academic skills they thought were needed to succeed in life.  Or is it that they felt the need to control their children’s lives to fulfill their own insecurities?  In either case, the outcome is the same: many young adults are missing critical skills to succeed in life.

It is troubling to see that the college students don’t trust the adults, just as the adults don’t trust the kids.  And we wonder why there’s such a strong generational divide!

I offer a small solution, my book, Flying without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life.  I wrote this book because I saw how this problem was arising and I wanted to help young people (and their parents) prepare for life.  I’m there for young people and old.  If you want to talk, schedule a meeting with me, free of charge.  I am an adult who supports adulting.

Another solution I offer is building trust between the generations.  My Collaborating Across Generations workshop helps people in the different generations better understand each other and work together.  We need less Millennial bashing and fewer “OK Boomer” comments and more leveraging of our different perspectives and work styles.

Is Helicopter Parenting Causing School Shootings?

angry kidLet me start by saying that we clearly have a gun problem in our society.  But running with the knee-jerk reaction of banning them and protecting people is only a Band-Aid solution.  It’s what got us here in the first place.

Has anyone else noticed that mass school shootings started with the Millennials?  No, I’m not saying that Millennials are the problem.  It’s the adults who raised them.  That’s all of us—parents, teachers, lawmakers, and so on.  We’re the ones who disempowered a whole generation of children and we’re continuing to disempower the next generation too.  The Z Generation are the victims of the Florida shooting and the shooting every three days since the year started.

Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man to Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime.  –Chinese Proverb

We live in a dangerous world with lots of dangerous things.  Shielding kids from the dangers of the world only makes them at higher risk of being hurt by them.  Eventually, they will venture—or sneak—out on their own when you’re not there to protect them and they are more likely to get hurt if they don’t know what they’re doing.  Teaching kids how to protect themselves from danger and why it is important to their well-being allows them to develop judgment which will serve them throughout life.

Sticks and stones may break my bones

But names will never harm me.  –Nursery Rhyme

By protecting and mandating good behavior we’ve set up a situation where there is no tolerance for imperfection.  Kids at school have to sit still, get good grades, and be nice to each other at all times.  Even though competition is fierce, children have to be inclusive and never express a negative sentiment.  Teachers too.  If you slip up even once, you’re out.

Think about the pressure this creates.  Imagine a steam engine with no vents.  If you keep adding pressure with no outlets, eventually you’ll have an explosion.  People are the same way.  Research shows that bottling up emotions can make people more aggressive and that diffusing them may help avoid lethal violence.

Kids need to be able to express their anger and aggression.  They need to be able to fight, to call each other names, to yell at each other, and to cry, feel pain, and get back up again.  This is how they develop a healthy constitution.  Prohibiting kids from feeling any pain and expressing all aggression is what’s leading to unhealthy eruptions.  Boys shoot and kill others.  Girls cut and kill themselves.  Both of these problems are at an all-time high.

Kids are remarkably resilient if we let them be.  When we shield them and protect them and do things for them we are creating little monsters.  Look at Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for classic examples of kids gone awry from misdirected parents.

What our country needs right now is less control and more empowerment.  We don’t need to ban free speech and guns.  We need to teach people how and when to use them appropriately.  Stop helicoptering and start empowering.

How We Are Disempowering Youth

By Joanie Connell

I drop my daughter off daily at middle school by driving into the parking lot, pulling up to the curb next to the school and popping the trunk. She hops out, goes around back, gets her backpack and closes the trunk. I drive off. It takes less than a minute.

school bus with kidsThis summer, my daughter is attending a camp at her school that is run by a different organization. We drove in the first day and were abruptly stopped by a hysterical person who was waving her arms and telling us we had to pull up into a lane behind other stopped cars. No problem. We pulled up and my daughter opened the door to get out. The person came running over, frantically, shouting at her to get back into the car. She informed us that we had to wait for a camp counselor to open the door for her. Kids weren’t allowed to open the car doors. Long story short, we waited for another 10 minutes for the lines of cars to pull up to the counselors (in an orderly fashion) and have a counselor open and close the door for each child.

Pick up was even slower. I asked (in as polite a way as I could possibly muster up) why they had crippled a perfectly functioning drop off and pick up system for the summer camp. The director of the drop off said it was because they had kids as young as second graders attending camp. “Of course,” I conceded. “It’s nobaby in carseatt only middle schoolers.” “But wait,” I thought, “second graders are 7-8 years old. Since when can 7- and 8-year-olds not open car doors?” Is this what our society has come to? If 7- and 8-year-olds can no longer open car doors on their own, haven’t we failed miserably as caregivers?

student waving goodbyeThe complete irony here is that this camp is for “academically talented” kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love the camp. It is a fantastic camp. And it’s not the only camp that is developmentally delaying children. My daughter went to a YMCA camp last year and had to hold onto a rope when she got out of the car. It was like preschool all over again. It seems that it’s not just “academically talented” kids who are incapable. At least, that’s what the adults think. The kids are actually very smart. You should see them trying not to hold onto the rope, being as sly as they can to make it look like they’re holding onto it for the counselors’ sake, but really not holding onto it for their own dignity’s sake. They know they don’t need to be treated this way. Why don’t we?

More importantly, who will our children turn out to be? How well will mother with daughtersthey be able to take care of themselves as adults? How much initiative will they take as employees? How many risks will they take as entrepreneurs? How strongly will they stand up in political negotiations as leaders of our nation? How well equipped will they be as caregivers of aging parents and their own children?

padlockWe think we are helping our kids by protecting them, but we are disempowering them in the process. You know what I mean; this is not just about opening car doors. The more we protect children, the less they are able to grow and take care of themselves. The more we instill fear and helplessness into our children, the more scared and helpless they become. Are those the qualities we want to instill in our future generation of leaders? Now that’s a scary thought!