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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:

January 6, 2015, 2:15 PM


I've done a lot of reflecting over the quality of my life, relationships, and the decisions I have made that have in turn made me.  Scary and exciting at the same time.  Socrates once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."  He was right.  The difference between a goal and a dream is a timeline.  As we begin 2015, I want to challenge you to live Backwards Forwards.

Pray, envision, and map out your goals with the end in mind and then work backwards to the action steps. 

  • What kind of relationships do you want to have?
  • What do you want to accomplish professionally?
  • What about financial goals? Health goals? Your relationship with God?
  • How about your kids--what will you do to mentor and prepare them to be fully devoted followers of Christ?

When is NOW. Why delay another day what you can do today?

Fear cripples; Faith fuels.   

Live life on purpose. Live with passion. Live empowered by His Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-17).

No excuses in 2015.  With God all things are possible. Do you believe that?

Let's have the best year yet.  A year where we allow God to lead ourselves and our families into all the wonderful things He has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:11).

Shaping hearts & Minds,

Dr. Chris

November 4, 2014, 2:09 PM

Soccer-Parent Syndrome

by Barbara Rainey

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. . . . [You] are intimately acquainted with all my ways. PSALM 139:1-3

Over the years, Dennis and I have attended hundreds of events involving our children. Baseball games. Volleyball matches. Cheerleading events. Gymnastics competitions. Evangelistic outreaches. Music recitals. Sometimes they all seemed like a blur! But there is one trap we worked hard to avoid: the Soccer-Parent Syndrome—the belief that attending your children's activities automatically means you're involved in their lives.

In reality, involvement means much more. It means crawling inside the head and heart of each of your kids. Finding out what he or she is thinking and feeling. Diving into the often turbulent waves caused by uncertain emotions.

This can be scary and uncomfortable at times. That's why so many parents run from real heart-and-soul involvement with their children and withdraw to much safer territory.

The sobering truth is that you can be in the same house or the same gym with your children but be clueless about what's really going on in their lives.

Yet connecting can be something as simple as walking into each child's bedroom, sitting down and asking a few questions. It can be a quick outing for a milkshake or a hamburger. It can be stepping out on the porch together on a Sunday afternoon, just to check his or her plans for the week or ask if he or she needs to talk, to let your child know you're there to listen.

When you pursue this kind of heart-to-heart relationship with your children, you're actually following God's example. Wouldn't it be wonderful (someday) if your kids could say of you, "My parents have ‘searched me and known me.' They know not just ‘when I sit down and when I rise up,' but they also ‘understand my thought' and are ‘intimately acquainted' with who I am and what I'm like"? That's the definition of an involved parent. Not just watching how well they turn a somersault.


Ask yourselves this question: "Are we just going and doing, or are we living and listening?"


Pray for ways not just to get there, but also to be there for your kids.  

Visit the FamilyLife® Website

October 21, 2014, 9:39 AM

Eight Lessons About Leading Kids From Derek Jeterís Dad

October 14, 2014 —Dr. Tim Elmore

The sports world was consumed this summer with Derek Jeter’s farewell to the New York Yankees (and baseball fans everywhere). He got applause from every ballpark because Jeter played the game with class. He ended his career at Yankee stadium with a walk-off single that won the game. He worked hard, kept a great attitude, was a great teammate, and was very competitive—but never once, in 2,903 games of major league baseball, did he get ejected from a game. Yep, he is different.

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

When asked how and where he learned to play the game—he refers to his father. From his own lips, here are eight lessons we learn about leading kids from Derek Jeter’s dad:

1.  Never let anyone outwork you.

Derek said he watched his dad work relentlessly as a substance abuse counselor. He never claimed to have the biggest talent, but he taught his kids to “work hard and never let anyone outwork you.” That way, it’s not about giftedness but work ethic.

2.  Inspire your followers by doing what you want done.

Derek’s dad modeled the way in everything from optimism to passion to fun around the house. Derek said his proclamation that he’d play shortstop for the Yankees came from his dad who played college baseball: “I wanted to be like him.”

3.  Don’t project on kids, but push them when it’s time.

His dad never once pushed him into baseball, but once he showed a passion for it, Jeter’s parents helped fuel it. Many an evening, Jeter and his sister Sharlee could be seen fielding grounders or taking swings in the yard with dad.

4.  Be tough, but fair.

Like most teens, Derek had clashes with his dad, but he said later, “While he was tough, he was always fair.” Dad would explain the reasons why he’d set up the rules and boundaries in the house. It provided emotional security for the kids.

5.  Agreements are better than rules.

Every August, Jeter was presented with a contract drawn up by his Dad on a legal pad, permitting him to play sports only if he complied with a series of expectations that included posting high grades, participating in extracurricular activities and avoiding drugs or alcohol. Derek never once violated that contract.

6.  Explain your leadership values.

Derek remembers, “There were a lot of times when you clash with your parents, but they were pretty good at explaining things. When you’re a kid, you don’t always agree, but my parents were always good at explaining, ‘Why.’” This helps kids follow.

7.  Err on the side of optimism.

Derek says the greatest lesson he learned from dad was to stay positive. Even in his 32-game slump in 2004, Derek put his uniform on, expecting to get a hit. He’d talk to his dad every day about the potential of that new day. He knew slumps would pass.

8.  Constantly express appreciation.

Derek tells us, “My parents have always been supportive—daily.” So on Father’s Day, he expects that he’ll tell his Dad, ‘Thanks,’ but that is not anything unusual—Jeter thinks that is an appreciative sentiment that should be relayed more than once every 365 days.

When you lead kids well, the relationship evolves from supervisor to consultant to friend. Their relationship has matured over the years, but Derek Jeter says that he knows with any pressing issue, Dad is still one of the two people he’d turn to first. “We’re more friends than anything,” Jeter said. “I think as I’ve gotten older, you still have the father-son relationship, but we’ve become closer friends. He’s still my Dad, but more so, a friend. I’d definitely go to him first with anything.”

How could a parent or coach want anything more?


P.S. Derek Jeter just wrote a children’s book that has 10 values and life lessons. Here’s the link:


October 6, 2014, 3:56 PM

The Birth & Death of Entitlement

October 1, 2014 — Dr. Tim Elmore

It’s not a new topic. Almost everyone I speak to agrees that American students in today’s middle class are just a tad bit spoiled. They act “entitled,” say school principals, faculty, deans and athletic coaches. In fact, the term “entitled” is the number one word employers use to describe recent graduates on the job.

Step back and reflect for a moment. If kids act entitled, it’s usually because we adults have allowed them to do so. Someone didn’t curb that attitude early on, and now as adolescents, they are in full throttle. But where did it begin?

According to research, a sense of entitlement in people tends to happen when two realities collide:

  1. When a person doesn’t comprehend the big picture.
  2. When a person has not experienced life’s normal hardships.

    According to a report by Don Tennant, “A lot of what contributes to a sense of entitlement appears to take root very early in life—early childhood experiences in school and with parents … the mentality of ‘if something bad happens, it must not be my fault; if something good happens, it must be because of me.’”

    Further, “Comprehensive studies of large swaths of different generations … [have] found higher levels of narcissism in the millennial generation.” One of the reasons we see such a high rate of entitlement among youth today is the rising levels of narcissism among them. Adults (parents, teachers, coaches, youth workers, administrators) have contributed to this mammoth sense of entitlement because we feared being the “bad cop,” providing both a big picture perspective on how most of the world lives and exposing them to real life experiences that reveal how life really works. So, let me share an old legend with you about a father who decided to fix this problem for his son. The story goes like this:

    There once lived a rich businessman who had a lazy and fun-loving son. The businessman wanted his son to be hard-working and responsible, to realize the value of labor. One day, he summoned his son and said, “Today, I want you to go out and earn something. If you fail, you won’t have your meals tonight.”

    The boy was callous and not used to any kind of work. This demand by his father scared him and he went crying straight to his mother. Her heart melted at the sight of tears in her son’s eyes. She grew restless. In a bid to help him, she gave him a gold coin. In the evening, when the father asked his son what he’d earned, the son promptly presented him the gold coin. The father then asked him to throw it into a well. The son did as he was told.

    The father was a man of wisdom and experience and guessed that the source of the gold coin was the boy’s mother. The next day, he sent his wife to her parent’s town, then asked his son to go again and earn something with the threat of being denied the night meals if he failed. This time he went crying to his sister, who sympathized with him and gave him a rupee coin out of her own savings. When his father asked him what he had earned, the boy tossed the rupee coin at him. The father again asked him to throw it in a well. The son did it quite readily.


    photo credit: Dinesh Cyanam via photopin cc


    Again, the father’s wisdom told him that his son had not earned the rupee coin, so he then sent his daughter to her in-laws’ house.He then asked his son a third time to go out and earn something, in order to have something for dinner that night.

    This time, with no one to help him out, the son was forced to go to the market in search of work. One of the shopkeepers there told him that he would pay him two rupees if he carried his trunk to his house. The rich man’s son could not refuse and was drenched in sweat by the time he finished the job. His feet were trembling and his neck was aching. There were rashes on his back. Returning home, he produced the two-rupee note to his father. This time, when the boy was asked to throw it into the well, the horrified son almost screamed. He couldn’t imagine throwing his hard-earned money away. Amid the sobbing, the boy stammered, “Father! My entire body is aching. My back has rashes, and you are asking me to throw the money into the well? I don’t think I can do it.”

    At this, the father smiled. He told him that one feels this pain only when the fruits of hard labor are wasted. On the earlier two occasions, money was given to him. Therefore, he felt no pain throwing the coins into the well. The son had now realized the value of hard work. He vowed never to be lazy and to safely keep the father’s wealth. The father handed over the keys of his shop to the son.

    Perhaps we need to introduce a relevant experience to our students that illustrates both big-picture perspective and real-world reality to them. I’m just sayin’…


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