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The Importance of Sharing Responsibility with Your Kids

The Importance of Sharing Responsibility with Your Kids

Have you ever heard your student, employee, or son or daughter say something like:

  • That wasn’t my fault. (And you know it was.)
  • Mrs. Vargus gave me a bad grade. (And you know it was earned.)
  • He made me do it. (And you know it was a choice.)
  • You don’t trust me. (And you wonder if you should.)

Responsibility is something students usually learn as they mature. Our culture today, however, makes it difficult for kids to do so. In 1954, Dr. Julian Rotter created a scale to measure whether students had developed an internal locus of control (They assume responsibility for their lives) or an external locus of control (They assume external forces control their lives). Over time, Dr. Rotter concluded that those with an internal locus become measurably more successful than those with an external locus. They take more responsibility for their health, their careers, their marriages and families, and their attitudes. The data reveals, however, that over the last 42 years, U.S. students have experienced a steep incline in possessing an external locus of control and a decrease in possessing an internal locus of control. The shift has been so great that the average young person today has a more external locus than 80% of the young people in the 1960s, according to Dr. Peter Gray from Boston College.

Seven Ideas to Share More Responsibility with Your Students

So, how do we as adults (especially parents) avoid taking too much responsibility or control over our kids’ lives? Too often, we are the culprits preventing students from owning their responsibilities because of the way we interact with them. Let me offer some ideas if this is your challenge.

1. Stop before you lecture.

When you spot children’s irresponsibility and want to lecture them, pause and breathe. You can either be a surgeon or a vampire, to use one of our Habitudes®. Vampires suck the life right out of a young person by venting on them. Surgeons carefully remove the problem and foster recovery. Wait a moment and use careful words that restore rather than punish. Discuss the goal they want to reach not what just happened.

2. Ask yourself: What does my child need from me?

Kids with dyslexia or ADHD or some other learning disability need different guidance from parents than what seems logical in the moment. It may be they need you to clarify their big goal, or perhaps they need to create a chart or a list or a schedule to keep them on track. Encourage them—but don’t do it for them. Consider their objectives and work backward from there. Don’t think control; think connect.

3. Leverage a process of delegation.

Often, we parents seize too much control of our children’s lives because we don’t want them to fail. It makes sense, but it’s not sustainable. When does it stop? Twenty-five or 30 years old? Start the process of slowly passing on ownership to your child by breaking down all the steps of each task, and one by one, turn them over to your son or daughter. You do a lot at first. Then you divide the task evenly. Then they do most of it. Then they take it all.

4. Focus on you, not your child.

I’ve never been able to control a teen’s attitude, but I’m tempted to try. It’s a myth. Parents need to focus on themselves and their controllables. Ask yourself: Have I done anything that might be enabling my child’s irresponsibility? Do I nag or nudge him or her? Do I over-function and send the signal that mom will do it if he or she doesn’t get it done. In the end, you must find the answer to what a responsible parent would do at this point.

5. Stop controlling and rescuing your child from mistakes.

Part of the reason for the rise in students’ external loci is parental intrusion. Parents today can over-function and remove the consequences for their children’s mistakes, hindering them from learning responsibility. If you rescue them by rushing their forgotten assignments to school, they will learn to depend on your sense of responsibility not their own. They will never genuinely mature if you don’t let go of the reins and let them grow up.

6. Recognize when you’re in your child’s box.

This is a term used by Empowering Parents. Your child needs his or her own box, a territory that belongs to him or her. Often times, parents don’t realize when they’ve crossed boundaries and intruded on the child’s territory. Boundaries have a growing importance in a teen’s life, and we must honor them. Students learn best when we stay in our lane.

7. Stick to agreed-upon consequences and rewards.

Once your student agrees to some standards, deadlines, or goals and the appropriate rewards and consequences, you will sabotage the process if you fail to fulfill or enforce them. Consistent follow-through may be the most important facet of conditioning mature conduct. Responsibility may be the very first signal of self-leadership, and that’s a significant trait to build.

Want to go deeper on topics like this? Check out: Habitudes for Social and Emotional Learning.

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What Parents May Learn from Teaching Their Own Kids

What Parents May Learn from Teaching Their Own Kids

One of the many viral Facebook posts spreading around the country is a note an eight-year-old boy named Ben wrote about how things were going at home now that his mom has assumed the task of being his teacher during this period of social distancing. To sum it up, Ben’s not so sure his mother is cut out for home-schooling.

Young Ben wrote:

It is not going good. My mom’s getting stressed out. My mom is really getting confused. We took a break so my mom can figure this stuff out. And I’m telling you it is not going good.”

This humorous post has been shared nearly 300,000 times and has received loads of comments from parents who sympathize with Ben’s mother, Candace, who posted it. Candace was understandably entertained by it all.

Photo via Fox 5

What Will We Learn After This Is Over?

Like many of you, I’ve wondered how this COVID-19 pandemic will affect our habits and attitudes once we level the curve and life returns to normal.  Will it be a new normal?

Here are my thoughts at this point.

1. Parents will gain a new appreciation for the daily grind of a teacher.

I’ll never forget watching an early episode of I Love Lucy where Ricky Ricardo and Lucy trade places. He learns just how difficult being a homemaker and mom really is, and, of course, Lucy experiences the challenges of Ricky’s job. I believe parents trading places with faculty will result in the same eye-opening experience. Guiding the learning of a student (especially a K-12 kid) is not as easy as it may appear. Many of our teachers are also parents who, during this pandemic, must teach their class virtually and their own children, too. Sort of makes you want to hug a teacher, doesn’t it?

2. Parents may realize that the teacher wasn’t the main problem at school.

One of the stereotypes of today’s generation of parents is that they tend to side with their children when problems arise at school: a poor grade, a fight, a missed assignment, bad behavior. Moms and dads seem to find an excuse to defend their children, feeling justified about being an advocate for them. Stereotypes almost always have a foundation of truth. I think millions of parents who defended their child in the past will discover their kids may actually be part of the problem in class. I just heard a mom joke about ripping the bumper sticker that reads, “My Kid is a Super Student” off her car. Parents may realize kids must be led better at home with consistent care and discipline. And maybe their teachers aren’t bad at all, but have the patience of the job.

3. Parents and teachers may both scrutinize what’s really important.

Once this pandemic is under control, we will all return to our routines, having scrutinized the subjects we are forced to teach our children. While many are timeless subjects and should continue being taught, some are antiquated and should be evaluated. Do we continue teaching these classes simply because they are core curriculum and have always been part of the lineup, or should we assess subjects based on what graduates genuinely need in the 21st century? A shakeup to our normal routines almost always enables us to see what we are doing clearly and ask the question: why?

Veronica is a neighbor of mine who’s a parent of three children, ages 7, 9, and 13. Heather is a neighbor who’s a middle school teacher. I just heard from Heather that she found a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates on her doorstep. It almost appeared to be a Valentine’s Day gift. But it wasn’t. Heather told me Veronica had delivered the gifts to her as an appreciation for all she does day in and day out. Veronica bought them on the third day of virtual classes.  Sounds about right to me.

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A Pandemic is a Terrible Thing to Waste

A Pandemic is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Note: Today’s post is available for you to either watch as a vlog or read as a blog post below.

Many people I know are already complaining about the “interruption” of the coronavirus. Life is on hold. Classes have gone virtual or gone away completely. It feels like society is not making progress.

But really—this is totally up to us.

I don’t mean to sound flippant during this pandemic when many are facing self-quarantines. I just believe that if we handle this interruption well, we might be surprised at what can be accomplished that would have never happened in our normal and busy routines.

Did you know that Isaac Newton was a college student during the Great Plague of London in 1665? Although it would take another 200 years for doctors to understand what caused the sickness, folks had enough sense to send students home to practice social-distancing.

And that’s when the magic happened.

Cambridge sent students home, so Newton returned to Woolsthorpe Manor, his family’s estate about 60 miles northwest of campus. Without his teachers to guide him, Newton flourished. The year he spent away was later referred to as his annus mirabilis, the year of wonder.

First of all, he continued working on math problems that he’d begun at Cambridge University on his own. Believe it or not, the papers he wrote became the creation of calculus.

Second, he acquired some prisms and began experimenting with them in his room, even boring a hole through his shutters so only a small beam of light could shine through. From his explorations emerged his theories on optics.

Third, outside his window was an apple tree. Yes, the apple tree we’ve all heard about. While parts of the narrative are an urban legend, his assistant confirmed much of the story is true. It was while sitting under that tree an apple fell, which launched his thinking. “The same power of gravity which made an apple fall to the ground was not limited to a certain distance from the earth (to a tree) but must extend much farther than was usually thought. ‘Why not as high as the moon?’ he said to himself.”

From this apple, Newton developed his theory on the law of gravity and his laws of motion.

What We Learn From Isaac Newton

Back in London, a fourth of the population would die of the plague between 1665-1666. It was one of many outbreaks during the 400 years that the Black Plague ravaged Europe.

But today, we’ve all benefited from that outbreak.

Isaac Newton returned to Cambridge in 1667 with his theories in hand. Within six months, he was made a fellow. Two years later, he became a professor—not bad for a man in his twenties. We have all been improved by his time alone during a pandemic.

So, what could you do during this time of social distancing?

Pandemics: An Interruption or an Introduction?

The concept is so simple it eludes us. It was actually because Isaac Newton couldn’t stay busy with his normal work that he made some of his most important discoveries. A big interruption became a big introduction to discoveries and advantages. But he had to choose to make his problem a possibility, to make his obstacles opportunities. He had to invest his time, not waste it. The stumbling block to his education became a steppingstone for new learning.

So, how did he turn life in his favor?

1. He had time and solitude to muse and to create.

I think most people run from solitude. We are conditioned to put our earplugs in and make noise. Turn the radio on. Drown out the boredom. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it frequently prevents original thinking. Neuroscientists tell us that it’s during times of boredom our brains develop empathy and creativity. Fortunately, Isaac Newton had no video games or television with which to squander his time. When nothing and no one consumed his time, he had the time to imagine and come up with some timeless ideas.

2. He had ownership of his day to pursue what interested him.

When no one is around to tell us what to do, we ought to experience our greatest moments. We own those moments. Isaac Newton pursued the things he wanted when he wanted. He didn’t squander his freedom. I’m sure he took time for fun, but his tasks were fun because he was in charge of them. Call it metacognition. Ownership creates initiative. Good things can happen when we have autonomy—we can master a passion.

3. He had margin to observe and to experiment.

A college student’s life is usually full. A combination of classes, clubs, studies, and sports leaves little margin in the week. Newton’s life came to a halt, just like yours and mine, during the pandemic. He leveraged his days experimenting with light, exploring mathematical equations, and writing new theories about how the world works. And it paid off. With brain bandwidth to observe and investigate, he was promoted twice in three years.

Today, I am so grateful Isaac Newton had some spare time. What will you do with yours?

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The Most Important Responsibilities Every Student Needs to Own

The Most Important Responsibilities Every Student Needs to Own

Jalen is 17 years old and in his junior year of high school. Like many teens his age, he’s preoccupied with making good grades, taking the SAT and getting into a good college. When I asked him about other concerns normally on the minds of teens like him—he balked.

Me: When did you get your driver’s license?

Jalen: I don’t drive. I don’t have my license yet. My mom drives me places, or I use Lyft.

Me: Are you dating anyone?

Jalen: Not really. I flirt with some girls on social media, but no real dates.

Me: So, if you don’t drive, does your mom take you to work?

Jalen: Oh, I don’t have time for a job. I play soccer, and I’m a brown belt in Karate.

Me: Have you ever worked for pay?

Jalen: Nope. I’ve never worked a job. And I’ve never drunk alcohol or had sex.

Jalen is actually part of a growing norm for teens today. Compared to teens from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, today’s teens “are taking longer to engage in both the pleasures and responsibilities of adulthood.” These are the words of research psychologist Dr. Jean Twenge, someone who’s become a friend over the last few years. Dr. Twenge is the author of iGen.

“The whole developmental pathway has slowed down, with today’s 18-year olds living more like 15-year olds once did.” The study is based on nationally representative surveys repeated with eight million teens, ages 13 to19, over several decades. It documents several trends often explained as separate phenomena. Yet, I think I see a pattern.

The Responsibility Path

A growing number of high school and college students take less responsibility for their lives than past generations of teens. It isn’t that they’re less intelligent or less gifted. Many of them are actually more talented and intelligent. The problem is the adults. We’ve assumed their responsibilities for them. The result can often be a frustrated parent, teacher, or coach asking themselves: What more can I do if Suzy or Ben isn’t taking any responsibility for his or her success? This list is meant to be discussed with your students—written to them about what they need to own.

Responsibilities Students Need to Own

1. Master your attitude.

You have no control over many obstacles that come your way, but you can control the way you respond to them. Own your attitude. Bad attitudes do you no good. Good attitudes can make the difference in whether you maintain creativity and optimism on the journey.

2. Be your own advocate at school.

Students have agency. You need to exercise it. Stake a claim in class and let the teacher know who you are and that you’re interested in succeeding. Stand up for what you need; ask questions; and own what you’ve agreed to do. This can be a game-changer.

3. Offer your best effort.

Students can’t get upset with their grades if they don’t invest energy. You should pursue your courses, sports teams, and other activities with an “all in” commitment. If you have to say no to some activities so you can focus, then so be it. Do less and achieve more.

4. Practice punctuality.

This has become more important to me as I age. When you’re on time, your message to others is, “I respect your time.” When you’re late, you unwittingly say, “I don’t care as much about your time as you do.” Be on time. Better yet, come early and prepared.

5. Surround yourself with people who can help you and vice versa.

Most students make friends accidentally—whomever they meet at a party, or a game, or in the residence hall. Why not identify and pursue helpful mentors, faculty, and friends who will nudge them toward where they want to go. And why not return that favor?

6. Navigate your screen time.

Most of our smartphones can report how much time we spend on them daily. Research demonstrates that fewer than two hours a day on social media leaves us less vulnerable to anxiety and depression. More than two hours results in greater vulnerability to mental health issues. Take charge of your phone and your time. It’s your life.

Would you add anything to this list? How could you discuss this list with a student?

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How to Help Generation Z Break Free from the All-or-Nothing Mindset

How to Help Generation Z Break Free from the All-or-Nothing Mindset

Have you noticed what’s happening around our country? Psychologists call it all-or-nothing thinking. It’s when a person assumes:

  • My life is either awesome or it’s terrible.
  • My job is either fantastic or it’s disgusting.
  • I am either beautiful or I am ugly.
  • My classmates are either smart or they’re stupid.
  • I am successful or I’m worthless.

This year, we see it in politics. When party members hear their candidate speak, it is easy to miss their flaws or mistakes. We trust them. When a candidate on the other side speaks, we can always find something wrong with their speech. We don’t trust them. We are either Republicans or we’re Democrats. All-or-nothing thinking blinds us to realities in our own lives and in the lives of others. It is especially unhealthy in students who are still forming their sense of identity, beliefs, and values.

Licensed marriage and family therapist Ashley Thorn says this kind of thinking “means you have only two options: things have to be one way or another, and there is no gray area or in-between.”

Tracey is a great example. This 17-year-old perfectionist once held the view that she was awesome. She made straight A’s and led a club on campus. This year, however, she did poorly on an exam, and her self-esteem plummeted. Why? All-or-nothing thinking. Since she obviously wasn’t awesome anymore, she must be a loser. She went from one extreme to the other.

Vikings or Victims?

Research psychologist Brene Brown says too often people today become “Vikings or Victims.”  Vikings are the conquerors, who only see themselves winning, beating others in every competition. Victims are the opposite. While they may be just as gifted or intelligent as any Viking, they’ve developed a black-and-white assumption that they’re on the other side of the competition. They are a victim of the system without the resources to succeed. Both of these mindsets see the world as a “eat or be eaten” place.

It’s quite disheartening when it defines their very identities.

Whether we are Vikings or Victims, we possess a fixed mindset, a term coined by Stanford research psychologist Carol Dweck. “We are either good at reading or we are not.” This prevents Vikings from seeing their own flaws and growing out of them, and it prevents Victims from seeing the positive qualities they possess and capitalizing on them. Realities are fixed.

So, how can we help them?

Helping Students Break Free from All-or-Nothing Mindsets

1. Discuss the good elements in every bad situation.

When you see a student spiral into all-or-nothing patterns, point out the helpful outcomes that can be found in bad circumstances. I recently spoke to a smart student who wasn’t accepted by a college program he wanted. I said, “Look at it this way. You had six desirable options, now you only have to choose from five. This could be good news.”

2. Enable them to see the flaws in all-or-nothing thinking.

It should be easy to point out the flawed logic of black and white categorizing. There is a little good and bad in every situation. We must avoid exaggerations. After losing a big football game, Joe Namath said, “Nothing is ever as good as it seems; nothing is ever as bad as it seems.” We are all smart in some areas and ignorant in others. We must see all sides.

3. Learn to use the words “and” and “yet.”

Black and white thinking focuses on the word or (We are either good or bad.) and the word but (You are good, but I am not.). What if we said, “I have a lot of great qualities and do a lot of good things, and sometimes, I make mistakes and poor decisions.” Then, Carol Dweck suggests we use the word yet: “I am not good at math, yet….” This is a more accurate view of our reality, and it allows for both honest evaluation and growth.

4. Focus on what can be learned from everyone and everything.

Sometimes students become cynical since they know so much at such a young age. They no longer have heroes because they know their flaws. Sure, George Washington had some poor qualities in his life, but we can still learn much from his leadership. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Learn to eat the fish and spit out the bones.

Katharina Star, PhD, writes:

“All-or-nothing thinking is a negative thinking pattern that’s common in people with panic disorder, depression, or other anxiety-related issues. All-or-nothing thinking is one of many negative thought processes, known as cognitive distortions, that are common among people with anxiety and depression. When thinking in all-or-nothing terms, you split your views into extremes. Everything—from your view of yourself to your life experiences—is divided into black-or-white terms. This leaves room for little, if any, gray area in between.”

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Three Ways to Know If Your Kid Is Dealing with Loneliness

Three Ways to Know If Your Kid Is Dealing with Loneliness

When both of my kids were young, they had no problem expressing what they wanted or needed. My wife and I would’ve sworn they were both extroverts, as they (like millions of other Millennials) let us know if they were hungry, thirsty, in need of a toy, or desiring a friend.

Then they became high school students and later, college students.

Eventually, the situation changed around our house. Turns out our daughter is, indeed, an extrovert and is energized by her time with people. (Don’t believe it? Just ask her). My son, however, is an introvert and has a difficult time expressing his deepest feelings or desires, even when they’re merely social. He is intelligent, college-educated, and actually quite articulate. (He’s a writer.) But he has an easier time sharing what he thinks than how he feels, just like his dad.

What Are Common Situations Where Kids Feel Lonely?

Every young person needs time alone, even the most social one. However, time alone can lead to a feeling of loneliness or sadness. Introverts typically love time alone but may eventually begin feeling lonely. Note some common situations:

1. Times of Transition and Change

Kids are especially vulnerable to feeling lonely when they move to a new school, (elementary school through college). Transition points bring change and a sense of unsettlement. They can be emotionally paralyzed and become lonely.

2. Periods of Grief or Loss

Often, kids don’t know what to do emotionally when they lose a pet or a family member or when they grieve a personal situation. Instead of connecting, they isolate themselves. Their withdrawal can lead to loneliness.

3. Connecting Through Screens more than Face-to-Face

Believe it or not, while social media allows us to connect with others, it’s virtual and often doesn’t satisfy our human need for social intimacy. Screens can lead to a melancholy state of loneliness.

4. When Being Bullied

An obvious context sparking loneliness is when a student is being bullied or cyber-bullied by peers. Smartphones have enabled bullying to expand beyond school hours, and kids can be manipulated into isolation and feel unworthy of friends.

We Live with an Irony

It’s ironic that as a society we’ve never been more connected, yet we experience a growing sense of loneliness. Statistics report that people have never felt so lonely. Teresa May announced a new position in England, a loneliness minister, to address the trend. Australia organized a Coalition to End Loneliness. One in five Americans reports rarely or never feeling close to others. And a recent study of over 20,000 people found that nearly half of respondents sometimes or always felt lonely.

I believe our portable devices designed to connect us have actually isolated us.

Three Ways to Spot a Kid Who May Be Lonely

The fact is we can be with a crowd of people and still feel alone. And we can be alone and not feel lonely at all. Solitude is something we all need and can learn to appreciate. While loneliness is not a sign of mental illness, it can foster mental health problems in kids. So, how can we spot it?

1. They are unable to talk about their friends.

In normal social situations, even a student who isn’t articulate can express how they feel about friends or about a social situation. Lonely kids can feel unable to do this. My son’s best friend moved out of state in fifth grade, and we noticed he stopped talking about any friends at all. His temporary loneliness fostered a silent 10-year-old in our home for a while.

2. They begin to look sad and withdraw.

During that same year, we noticed our son begin to withdraw from his routines, and he looked sad much of the time. When we inquired, we discovered that he wandered around the playground at recess alone or sat alone. This was unlike him.

3. They lose their appetite for the food they like or lose interest in fun activities.

A natural outgrowth of the previous symptom, kids can lose their appetite at mealtimes, and even lose their appetite for the usually attractive activities they previously enjoyed. Lack of motivation is a prime symptom of loneliness and can be associated with depression.

Here’s to being a more informed leader for these students.

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What Message are We Sending to Generation Z?

What Message are We Sending to Generation Z?

Note: Today’s post is available for you to either watch as a vlog or read as a blog post below.

An NPR online report stunned me recently. I didn’t know whether to chuckle or to mourn our “snowflake generation.” And it’s not the kids—it’s the adults.

Along with hand sanitizer and other disinfectants, toilet tissue has been increasingly hard to find at local markets, as people stock up to hunker down during the global pandemic. Police in Newport, Oregon posted a Facebook message to citizens in their area:

It’s hard to believe that we even have to post this. Do not call 9-1-1 just because you ran out of toilet paper. You will survive without our assistance.”

Yes, you interpreted that correctly. People are calling 9-1-1 when stores run out of toilet paper, not unlike the woman a few years ago who called 9-1-1 when McDonald’s ran out of chicken nuggets. It’s crazy. What are we thinking? Why does panic rule our perspective today?

What Spreads Faster Than the Coronavirus?

Let me tell you what’s more contagious than the Coronavirus in our country: fear. It’s infectious, and I believe it’s doing more damage overall to the kids in Generation Z than a virus. Sadly, they are “catching” our anxiety. We panic far too easily. We fall into a scarcity mindset. We make mountains out of molehills. And it’s not helping the mental health of our youth.

  • Two moms squabbled over paper towel packages at our local grocery store, in Atlanta. Their children watched their immature behavior until a clerk broke up the fight.
  • Some parents aren’t allowing their kids to even go outside for fear of the Coronavirus. Those kids, understandably, are going stir crazy inside the house all day.
  • In one part of San Diego, police are stopping senior citizens from taking a walk outside and escorting them home. After all, adults can’t police themselves, right?

What message are we sending to our kids?

If you think these incidents I’ve mentioned, are quite normal, it only reveals how much we’ve bought into the current narrative of today’s adults. Our anxiety is spreading like wildfire.

What’s Most Infectious

What affects us is not so much what happens to us, but the narrative we embrace from what happens. Northwestern University psychologist Dan McAdams is an expert on a concept he calls “narrative identity.” McAdams describes narrative identity as an internalized story you create about yourself—your own personal myth. Today, it is much more anxious, even paranoid. Past generations have gone through worse times but carried a “can do” attitude. Today, we are far more emotionally fragile. Much smaller hardships can send us into a tailspin, according to Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, in their book, The Coddling of the American Mind.

Far too often, our narrative displays to our young that we are:

  • Driven by fear of scarcity.
  • Driven by selfishness.
  • Driven by irrationality.

Three Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Message to Kids:

1. Check your motive: Is it worry or wisdom that you’re communicating to them?

Motives can be seen by young people. They know when a teacher is frustrated or when a mom is paranoid. Sometimes it comes out in our words. We say things like, “Don’t go outside! I don’t want you catching that virus and going to the emergency room.” Or, kids watch us hoard toilet paper like it’s going out of style to the point that grocery stores now must limit the volume customers try to buy. This stockpiling not only is unnecessary, according to doctors, but it relays to kids our worry-based leadership.

2. Check your foundation: Is it fear or facts upon which you base your conclusion?

Are your conclusions based upon a media broadcast or a social media post created to be clickbait for viewers, and not accurate information? Do you buy into fake news’ speculation rather than accurate information? The U.S. surgeon general tweeted recently, “Seriously people—STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk.” We’ll either produce kids who’re poised or paranoid, based on our example. The Washington Post says, “The virus may be novel, but you really don’t need to buy anything new or special to brace for it…epidemiology experts said the most important aspect of preparedness costs nothing at all — calm.”

3. Check your advice: Is it based upon panic or principles when you lead them?

When we don’t possess a set of principles by which we lead, teach or parent our kids, we tend to be reactionary. And in today’s environment, that means we often panic based on the anxiety happening around us. We catch it, then our kids catch it from us. “Don’t panic,” said Timothy Brewer, professor of epidemiology and medicine at UCLA. “There’s no value in panicking or telling people to be afraid. Don’t let fear and emotion drive the response to this virus. That can be extremely difficult because it is new, and we’re still learning about it, but don’t allow fear of what we don’t know about the virus to overwhelm what we do know.”

We must always ask ourselves: What message does my leadership communicate to the kids who follow me?

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The Six P’s of an Amazing School Culture

The Six P’s of an Amazing School Culture

I just finished reviewing my notes on colleges and secondary schools I’ve observed since 2005. The schools are located in Singapore, Canada, England, Germany, Egypt, India, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. I’ve listed below the “best practices” in those schools. Obviously, a key requirement when applying best practices to organizations or schools is the ability to balance the unique qualities of an organization with the practices that it has in common with others.

I was astonished to find many passionate, caring and brilliant educators and administrators in each of these nations. Leaders of all colors, languages, genders, and ages weighed in to provide me with the best ideas that set their campus culture apart. Below are six common elements that stood out.


The best school cultures I have witnessed position influential staff and teachers in prime real estate on campus. One principal moved his office to a more visible part of the school. Others made sure department heads were in a prime spot where lots of student traffic took place. They understand the power of proximity—helping certain influential leaders cross paths with influential, caring teachers and administrators during the course of daily routines. One A.P. set up her desk right in the middle of the school lobby just to make a point that she was accessible to students with anxieties. My advice? Make sure to position people and students well to foster positive relationships and routines.


Another characteristic of a contagious school culture is student participation. Administrators actually invite students to help make important decisions, like the new school mascot, colors, motto or emblem. Some principals and assistant principals hold meetings with students, community leaders, parents and business people to collaborate on future buildings and architecture as well as changes in the current schedules. These school leaders know that people support what they help create. So, they don’t take action unless key stakeholders—even kids—own those actions and spread a positive vibe about them in the hallways. This fosters ownership among the staff and student body.

Positive Press

The best cultures include administrators and teachers who spread positive messages in the press and through social media channels. When a virus breaks out, they not only call off classes, they begin reporting how students are using their time wisely serving the community and getting extra credit work done in their spare time. They post “shout outs” in the news, morning announcements and Instagram about teachers and student-athletes, artists, actors and academicians who perform well and deserve some affirmation. Good leaders guide the narrative in people’s minds about their school and keep it hopeful.


We all know schools that give “referrals” to students who require disciplinary action: suspensions and detentions. I saw schools that give positive referrals and even point to students who stand out and may have no one notice unless an educator points it out. These schools have teachers “write up” a referral (just like the negative ones) and then announcements are made, parents are called, affirmation is given in the assistant principal’s office—and points are added to their class scores. Good leaders know what gets rewarded gets repeated. Why not reward great attitudes and conduct, not just grades. This kind of scorekeeping catches on and leads to great conduct on the student’s part.


Some people might ask: Can schools actually possess a personality like people do? My response: absolutely. Just as individuals and teams embrace a “persona,” I believe campuses have them as well, by default or design. In fact, I believe classes have them too. Whether we succeed at this, all depends on the originality of the leaders. By this, I mean more than the brand. The personality of a school is created by the unique ideas that capture the imagination of students and teachers; by the ingenuity of the department heads who not only come up with fresh ideas each year but collaborate with each other between departments (i.e. a football team and the cast in the school play).


This may be a term you don’t use in everyday conversation. Patois is the style and vernacular you use on the campus that sets your school apart. The term patois describes the way you talk, like the “patois of New Englanders.” It literally means the common dialect of a region of people. Just like nations experience unique cultures based on values, customs, and language, great school cultures come up with terminology that only they use; a particular way of saying those terms that belong to them. In our office, we not only offer Habitudes® to schools we partner with, but we have our own Habitudes we use internally—images that communicate ideas we hold dear. They belong to us.

Question—do you practice these? Do you have others that set you apart? How could Growing Leaders serve you to upgrade your campus culture?

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How the Coronavirus Could Affect Generation Z

How the Coronavirus Could Affect Generation Z

Every time period in history is shaped by the significant events that occur during that season. Each generation is marked by shared experiences, music, heroes, villains, tragedies, TV shows and economies. Let’s walk down memory lane:

  • My parents grew up during the Great Depression and brought a “waste not, want not” mindset with them clear into the 21st century.
  • Both the Columbine High School shooting and the 9-11 terrorist attacks deepened fear in American families. Worry about children’s safety continues to reign.
  • The Asian financial crisis and later the 2008-09 financial downturn placed a wedge right through economies. Paychecks for young workers have not recovered since.

Today—we face a health emergency called the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Globally, nations are taking steps to keep people safe. College and professional sports competitions are on hold. People are wearing masks; shoppers hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer; employees work virtually from home and most everyone is canceling social and business meetings and meeting on a screen instead. We even see national lockdowns.

What a crazy year few weeks it has been.

The Negative and Positive Impact of the Season We Are Living In

The fact is, we may see some habits begin that stay with us for years. Because people reflect the times they live in, mindsets and lifestyles could form during this season of the COVID-19 outbreak that has now spread throughout the world.

We may shop differently, travel differently and work differently for years to come. Time will tell how the pandemic genuinely affects us, but I predict we may see Generation Z growing up in a “new normal” just like Millennials did following September 11, 2001.

Three Potential Negative Effects:

1. The normalization of isolation.

While I believe life will return to normal, I believe teleworking will become normal as well. Working remotely is already happening in businesses across the country, but we’re about to learn how much can get done virtually from home. It’s more convenient and cost-effective to stay at home. What we’ll lack is needed face-to-face connections. Humans are social creatures that require time together. We’ve already learned screens are not enough to meet our needs. Sadly, society migrates toward convenience whenever possible, even if it costs us our mental health.

2. The normalization of panic and anxiety.

Our culture has already witnessed the rise in anxiety, depression and mental health problems. I believe our reaction to COVID-19 will deepen the normalization of panic. Certainly, we must take action, but panic usually worsens things. We must fight anxiety like we fight the Coronavirus.

3. The normalization of a scarcity mindset.

Since 2000, our culture has experienced two economic downturns, and our current pandemic could cause a third one. Far worse than sour economies, however, is the scarcity mindset that can accompany difficult times: “It feels like things are running out like there won’t be enough of what we need.” The Great Depression of 1929 wasn’t the result of a stock market crash alone. It was panicked people who all rushed to the banks to withdraw money that shut them down. We must work to ensure the Coronavirus doesn’t remove hope, faith, and optimism from Gen Z.

Three Potential Positive Effects 

1. The expansion of resourcefulness and innovation.

Just like difficult times encouraged frugality in my parents’ generation during the 1930s, this season could foster resourcefulness and innovation in Generation Z. Since we often get creative with routines “on hold,” some will figure out how to monetize our new normal. Kids could become more creative with their smart devices and find a way to capitalize on hardship. Jacob Schick invented an electric razor when he cut himself shaving. Charles Kettering created an electronic ignition when he broke his arm starting a car. When resources are scarce, kids become resourceful. (Learn more about this positive effect in a bonus video: A Pandemic is a Terrible Thing to WasteWatch Now).

2. The expansion of saving and giving.

I love our societal predisposition toward “paying it forward.” It’s common to hear stories of people paying off other’s medical bills or paying for someone else’s food at a drive-thru window. I’m hopeful that this pandemic conditions students to see how they can serve others or give to those less fortunate. I’m also hopeful this season encourages students to save money instead of spending or wasting it. Often, the best in people comes out when we endure a crisis. I’m hopeful we learn to think about the future, not just today, and think of others, not just ourselves.

3. The expansion of responsive service workers.

After 9-11, there were many young adults who enlisted in the military or decided to become a first responder, concluding our country needed heroes. While I realize this is “apples and oranges,” the Coronavirus pandemic might just have the same effect. Generation Z members may recognize the need for nurses and emergency workers and respond. They will likely see the merit of medical professionals and the need for research. Both witnessing the need and the heroes who meet such needs can be a compelling argument to challenge a new workforce entering adulthood.

Knowing you might be home now with your kids trying to figure out what to do with their time, Growing Leaders has created a free resource called: Home Chats: A Parents Guide to Healthy Conversations during the Coronavirus Outbreak. Our goal is to spark great discussions between adults and kids that make the most of our current moment. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE.

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Amazon Business Strategy: cost leadership & customer centricity

Amazon Business Strategy: cost leadership & customer centricity

Amazon Business StrategyAmazon business strategy can be described as cost leadership taken to the extreme. Range, price and convenience are placed at the core of Amazon competitive advantage. The global online retailer operates with a razor thin profit margin and succeeds due … Continue reading

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