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August 21, 2015, 11:51 AM

Two Vital Qualities Your Students Need From You

Two Vital Qualities Your Students Need From You

As we enter a new school year, may I offer a simple reminder? Your students need you to lead them clearly and wisely. I believe doing this requires a balancing act. Armchair quarterbacks shout from the sidelines, but few get involved in the hard stuff of this balancing act. This is why good parents are harder to find today, as so many seem to have low self-awareness on this issue. One report said the majority of moms and dads today give themselves an A or a B in their parenting skills, but they give other parents a D or an F. This is also why great staff or faculty can be rare, as this leadership approach requires two seemingly opposite qualities.

Your Balancing Act

Leading students well depends on the timing of your actions and your leadership style. What an adolescent needs is an adult (parent, teacher, coach, employer, pastor or leader) who makes appropriate demands and sets appropriate standards for them in a responsive environment of belief and concern. In short, they need adults to display a balance of two characteristics—they need them to be both responsive and demanding.

  1. Responsive: to display acceptance, support and belief; to be attentive to them.
  2. Demanding: to establish standards and hold students accountable to them.

Psychologist Diana Baumrind speaks of these characteristics in her groundbreaking writing and suggests that adults with too little or too much result in these scenarios:

  1. Permissive – Too much responsiveness with too little demands.
  2. Authoritarian – Too many demands with too little responsiveness.
  3. Uninvolved – Virtually no responsiveness and no demands.
  4. Authoritative – Responsiveness is matched with appropriate demands.

We’ve all seen it — teens who act like immature brats because teachers or parents have failed to hold them to standards of behavior. On the other hand, we’ve all seen the pitiful scenario where students live in fear because adults have pressured them to perform… but never communicated grace and support. They need a balance.

Case Study: Jonathan

My son is 23-years-old. As a teen, he grew interested in the entertainment industry. As a parent, I wanted to stoke his passion, but I also wanted to help him mature at the same time. At 16, he came to me with the idea of moving out to Hollywood for a few months. We talked it over and concluded his mother would move out with him under these conditions:

  • He would assume responsibility for half of all the expenses.
  • Any auditions that turned into income would pay back his loan.
  • He would pay for half of the car he would need to eventually buy.
  • He would pay for any accidents he had that didn’t require insurance.
  • He would pay for fuel he used, and we would pay for insurance.

It was an incredible time of maturing, as he took on autonomy and responsibility.

Case Study: Nick

David is a friend of mine whose 12-year-old son wanted an iPod. The particular one Nick wanted was in limited supply, and he was afraid it would sell out before he had the money to buy it. David performed a wonderful balancing act with Nick. He bought the iPod, then said to his son, “I will hold onto it until you earn the money to purchase it from me. If I give it to you now to enjoy, you’ll have no incentive to pay it off, and you won’t appreciate it as much.” Six months ago, my friend handed the iPod to his son. It was fully paid for by a grateful teenager.

Stop and reflect on this reality for a moment, described by authors Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen in their book Escaping the Endless Adolescence:

Generations ago, 14-year-olds used to drive, 17-year olds led armies, and average teens contributed labor and income to help keep their families afloat. While facing other problems, those teens displayed adult-like maturity far more quickly than today’s, who are remarkably well-kept but cut off from most of the responsibility, work and growth-producing feedback of the adult world.

Here’s the troubling report on today’s kids. One major nationwide study showed that the desire to leave home and live on one’s own has steadily increased. Unfortunately, this is not at all an eagerness to assume adult responsibilities, for at the same time, high school seniors are more and more likely to say that they “feel hesitant about taking a full-time job and becoming part of the ‘adult’ world.” Indeed, although eagerness to leave home is consistently higher, we see a similar trend. They express a proportionate decline in readiness to actually “be” an adult. (The hesitation about becoming an adult is not simply a result of more students planning to attend college, for the trend holds both for college-bound and non-college-bound students.) Thus, students increasingly anticipate a period of living on their own before taking on adult responsibilities.

There’s no doubt that every kid grows up at a different pace. This is why adults must be responsive and demanding — whether it’s a college student or a secondary school student, we must time what we say and do appropriately. I believe we earn the right to be demanding by first being responsive to them. Remember, our job is to prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.

A Case Study

I have a friend who’s balanced this well for years with his five children. His son, Bryson, made the varsity basketball team his freshman year of high school. We all got excited for him—that’s quite a feat for a 14-year-old kid. Four weeks into the season, however, Bryson approached his dad and said he planned to quit the team. He was spending all his time on the bench and it wasn’t as fun as he expected.

“Son,” my friend responded as they sat down in their family room, “I am so sorry you are having to sit on the bench and watch the games instead of playing. I know you were hoping to show your talent to the coach and team, and I’m sure it’s not fun sitting idle at the end of the bench.” Then he paused. “But, I can’t let you quit the team. You see, you took someone else’s spot when you made the team. You need to finish what you started. Commitments are not always fun, and I expect you to cheer your teammates on and encourage every one of them through the entire season. After its over, you don’t have to go out for the team next season—but I’m requiring you to finish this one.”

His son has thanked him many times since. That’s what I call a perfect balancing act.

May 5, 2015, 11:31 AM

Choose to Be Changed

Are we there yet?”  “I’m bored.”  “John touched me.”  “Jill’s not sharing.” “I hate…”  “This stinks…”

Oh, the conversations in the back of the minivan—especially when you’ve been on the road for several hours and everyone is a little tired and could use a hug.  Sometimes you feel compelled as a parent to shout, “DON’T MAKE ME PULL THIS CAR OVER.”  It’s May and we’ve been in this school car for 9 &1/2 months.  Doing life together is not always easy or fun.  Sometimes it’s plain old hard work.  Sometimes you want to look at your kids, your school, your life in general, and say “I love you, I just don’t like you very much right now.” 

When we are tired and irritable and find ourselves getting short with those we love, we need to take pause and give our relationships a tune up like Paul speaks of in Colossians 3:12-14:

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

We must choose to be changed.  We must choose to be the mighty duck and let things roll off our back and choose to “clothe” ourselves with Christ’s love.  The key word here is CHOOSE.  Choose to be grateful over being grumpy.  Choose to be thankful over throwing tantrums.  Choose to be selfless over being selfish. Choose to love over lashing out.

We can’t control others, but we can exercise self-control.  It’s a fruit of God’s Holy Spirit working within us (GAL. 5:22, 23). As we approach the end of the year and get ready to land this plane, let’s choose—choose to be changed. 

Shaping Hearts & Minds,

Dr. Chris

March 24, 2015, 10:05 AM

Making the Most of Easter

Holiday.  The word actually is a shortening of “holy day.” To be holy means to be “set apart.”  The church from its inception has always set apart certain days, and acknowledged them as “holy,” so we can take in the amazing, redemptive love story of what God did through Jesus Christ to rescue His people and restore us back to right relationship with Him.   The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5: 19-21 (NLT):

19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

As the Easter holiday approaches, I encourage you to make this year different.  Yes, we will have all the festivities, egg hunts, chocolate, and family get-togethers.  In addition to that, make it a point to share with your family the Easter story.  A great place to start is any of the gospels and read the last few chapters that cover the events of the last week of His life.  Discuss with your family why Jesus came, why He willingly laid down His life as a sacrifice for our sins, and the awesome news that He has risen from the grave and conquered sin and death.  Share with them importance of embracing God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  Underscore why we must each choose to follow Christ on a daily basis.  We must help our kids internalize God’s love for them.

Faith grows as we hear the word of God and act upon it.  Let’s make this Easter season a meaningful time in our families spiritual lives.  Most churches will have services on Thursday, Friday & Sunday.  Make it a point to attend as a family.  May the Lord bless you and your family.

Shaping hearts and minds,

Dr. Chris


February 17, 2015, 9:01 AM

Seven Crippling Parent Behaviors

All the wisdom and love in the world doesn’t necessarily protect us from parenting in ways that hold our children back from thriving, gaining independence and becoming the leaders they have the potential to be. Sometimes in our efforts to provide and protect, we are actually hindering our kids from becoming the leaders God created them to be.  In the words of Dr. Tim Elmore, “Care enough to train them [our kids], not merely treat them to a good life. Coach them, more than coddle them.” I encourage you to read the short article, by clicking on the link:  

7 Damaging Parenting Behaviors

  1. We don’t let our children experience risk.

  2. We rescue too quickly.

  3. We rave too easily.

  4. We let guilt get in the way of leading well.

  5. We don’t share our past mistakes.

  6. We mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity.

  7. We don’t practice what we preach.

How can parents move away from these negative behaviors (without having to hire a family therapist to help)?

Here’s a start:

  1. Talk over the issues you wish you would’ve known about adulthood.

  2. Allow them to attempt things that stretch them and even let them fail.

  3. Discuss future consequences if they fail to master certain disciplines.

  4. Aid them in matching their strengths to real-world problems.

  5. Furnish projects that require patience, so they learn to delay gratification.

  6. Teach them that life is about choices and trade-offs; they can’t do everything.

  7. Initiate (or simulate) adult tasks like paying bills or making business deals.

  8. Introduce them to potential mentors from your network.

  9. Help them envision a fulfilling future, and then discuss the steps to get there.

  10. Celebrate progress they make toward autonomy and responsibility.

Again, I encourage you to read the brief article.  From my 21 years of experience in Post-Secondary and K-12 education, I can tell you Dr. Elmore’s words are right on.    



February 3, 2015, 9:49 AM

Why Students Choose Toxic Relationships

January 29, 2015 — Dr. Tim Elmore

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • A high school female continues to date abusive males.

  • A college male hangs around friends who get him into trouble.

  • Smart adolescents keep returning to the same old social groups that are going nowhere, that don’t push them to grow or mature.

    I think every teacher, coach, youth worker or parent has mourned a young person who consistently makes poor choices about who they hang around, and how those peers prevent them from reaching their potential.

    So why is this so common? How can such smart kids do such dumb things?

    photo credit: jazbeck via photopin cc

    photo credit: jazbeck via photopin cc

    When Smart Students Do Dumb Things

    Here’s a hint: it has little to do with how smart they are. The truth is, this problem is not so much about their intellect as it is about their emotions. Regardless if they possess a high IQ, a low EQ (what researchers call “emotional intelligence”) can sabotage it every time. This is why those of us who lead them must understand what’s going on.

    Brain researchers have told us for years that during adolescence, young people are prone to take more risks than at any other time in their life. The pre-frontal cortex is developing during this period, so the portions of the brain attuned to reward for risks are very high while the portions of the brain that signal consequences for risk are very low. This can lead “smart kids to do some dumb things” at or after school.

    In addition, teens who long for those rewards from peers struggle with a paradox. The paradox is so tangible, few of them can explain their own behavior. Let me attempt a simple explanation of my own, based on interactions with high school and college students over the last three decades. Young adults may wrestle with choosing between various peer groups. The fight can be summarized this way:

  1. When I am around healthy, productive people – I like who I am.

Consider what we become when we are around peers who challenge us to be at our best. We feel the exhilarating pull of growth and improvement, whether it’s playing sports, achieving good grades or competing for a spot on the debate team. It may feel hard at the time, but in the process we become a better version of ourselves. I remember hanging around both good athletes as well as smart students in high school and college—and both of them made me stretch and get better. My sense of identity reflected that improvement and I liked myself more than I did earlier.

  1. When I’m around unhealthy, dysfunctional people – I like how I feel.

    Unfortunately, this pull forward can be eclipsed by another pull. Students often find that while they like their identity more when around healthy, productive peers, they like how they feel when around static, dysfunctional people. They relax emotionally and intellectually. Further, they feel like they are on top of the heap—and are able to help those languishing peers who need them. Let’s face it: we all like to feel needed; to be a big fish in a small pond. So…many sharp students tend to play the role of “rescuers” and, sadly in the process, get pulled down with peers who are stuck.

    Do you remember the story of the crabs in a bucket? Fishermen who have a bucket full of crabs don’t have to worry about any of them climbing out. Do you know why? Because the moment one of them begins to climb to the top, the others pull it back down into the pile. This scenario is all too familiar.

    Jared has a genius IQ and is gifted musically as well as academically. Unfortunately, his parents and teachers failed to speak to him about his identity. They felt it was up to him to figure out this for himself. While I understand that the issue of identity is ultimately up to each individual, young people need those in authority to speak into their life and tell them what they see. Our goal should be to invite them into a bigger, more engaging story; into the pursuit of liking who they are, more than how they feel. We must equip them to embrace identity over comfort.

    Two Steps We Can Take

  • Talk about their past. Discover and discuss anything you can that might challenge them to live up to a family heritage or name. If their past is stained with poor examples, challenge them to break the cycle.

  • Talk about their future. Talk about how their current decisions will either help or hinder the target they want to hit in their adult life. Remind them that the further out they can see the better the decision they will make today.

    Let’s help students love who they are.

    - See more at:

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