I too often hear, “kids these days…” followed by some derogatory remark about how today’s youth don’t, won’t, or can’t do something. Maybe it is something we felt that we did when we were young, or something that we feel they should do as responsible young men and women. To be completely honest, I hate these conversations. I am tired of people assuming that this generation is lazy and irresponsible.
Today’s youth are faced with challenges that have never existed before and we are preparing them for a future that is unknown to any of us. It is not easy being an adolescent, it wasn’t when we were, and today is no different. And even though today’s youth may be faced with different challenges then we did growing up, their challenges are nonetheless, difficult, maybe even more so than ours. Where some might see kids that are distracted or irresponsible, I see a generation that is resilient, compassionate, and creative. We just need to give this generation the opportunity to show us these traits rather than assume they do not exist in kids these days.
To prove my point, I like to occasionally run little social experiments during the school day, like leaving a piece of paper on the ground in the hallway so I can compliment the first person to pick it up. One of my new favorite experiments takes place during breakfast at my school. We are lucky to be able to serve a free breakfast to every student. Hundreds of students come through the lines each morning and grab breakfast which includes: a food item, a milk, and a juice. They must take one of each. Instead of having the kids throw away something they may not want, we set out bins where they can discard or trade an unwanted drink item. As you can image, the students leave and toss the unwanted item(s) in the bin causing them to look like the picture on the left, below. What I enjoy doing each morning is grabbing a bin that has only a few items tossed haphazardly in it and organizing the items in rows. I then step back and watch what happens. You would be amazed to see how the students react. Almost every student who notices the organization, neatly places their unwanted carton in the bin. Many even taking the time to make sure it is facing the same direction as the others. Some students will give their item a toss at first, but once realizing the bin is organized, walk over and place it in “properly.” It is interesting to watch each day. Just giving the students a little initial organization, they almost every time follow suit. These kids want to do the right thing and just need someone to model the expectation.
I believe today’s youth are always paying attention. I am just not sure if we are fully cognisant that what we do, in our everyday choices and encounters with them, is what we are teaching them. On a regular basis when I see a kid make a poor decision, I can look at adults today and see where they got it from.
Adults using social media to spew negativity and hatred, instead of using it as a way to connect and share. Parents staring at cell phones during their kids games instead of giving the game their attention. (I am guilty of this one at times.) People solving conflict with violence instead of with love. Our national leaders arguing and degrading each other instead of finding common ground to solve issues together. Today’s youth is unfortunately paying attention, listening, and watching all of this on a daily basis and we wonder where they get it from.
We blame the youth, but they are just following the lead they see in our world on a daily basis. Instead of criticizing, maybe it is time to critically look at the behaviors we are modeling for today’s youth. John Wooden said, “Young people need models, not critics.” I couldn’t agree more. So, let’s go out and be positive models for our kids. Let’s use mistakes as a way to teach rather than criticize. Let’s stop talking about changes that need to happen with today’s youth and be that change for our kids.
Kids these days are amazing and I feel honored to work with them, and learn with them, each day!
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!