Three Ways We Set Kids Up to Fail

by Shane Rhodehamel

Is it possible? Do the life events of a young person really shape the entirety of their life journey? It sure did for me!  In a previous article I shared some of my personal journey.  This week I want to identify some of the ways our culture sets up the next generation for failure.  This applies to the kids in our families, the students in our schools, the young people in our churches, and all the millennial generation of 20 “somethings” flooding into our work places.

First, we expect them to learn without being taught. 

We expect them to choose the right path on their own.  Young people need adults in their lives who care about them and their future.  They need someone to take time to show them how to be effective in their relationships. They need someone to show them how to make good choices.  They need encouragement and rewards for a job well done.  They need unconditional love and stability.  Young people need time with their parents and grandparents, as well as, coaches, teachers, pastors, community leaders, and other family members who will mentor them and encourage them as well as challenge them to greatness.

Second, many times we sell them short

We see them according to their past mistakes and not according to their potential.  We neglect to believe in them, empower them, and hold them to a higher standard.  We forget that just a few years ago, we were in their shoes just looking for someone to believe that we could amount to something.  Do you remember the teacher that saw something in you that others didn’t?  Do you remember a pastor or church leader that encouraged you to follow your dream?  Do you remember a coach that inspired you to press past your current physical or mental limits?  What about the boss who gave you a shot when you didn’t have much experience?  No young person has ever thought, man, I wish my parents wouldn’t be so encouraging.  I think all of us would agree that those people in our lives who believed in us, encouraged us, and inspired us are the real heroes!

We don’t stop treating them like children.

 Lastly, if we treat them like kids all the way through their teenage years, they will act like kids as adults.   This is a tough one for a lot of parents, teachers, and coaches.  Pastors can be the worst at this as well.  We enable our kids to be kids as adults because we make excuses for them, we clean up their messes, and we never hold them accountable for their actions.  When I got married, I had barely ever done my own laundry, I could only cook eggs and grilled cheese, and I seriously didn’t know how to clean a bathroom.  I learned quick but I simply did not ever have to do those things because my mom was amazing, but she didn’t realize that by doing things for me, I wasn’t learning how to do them.  We make too many decisions for our kids without letting them process the pros and cons.  In many cases, we don’t enforce real consequences for poor choices.  It is appropriate to do things for our toddlers and elementary aged kids.  When they enter teen years, we do things with them.  Part way through their teens, we should be allowing and expecting our kids to do things and we encourage them and coach them.  In other words, if they can’t take out the trash, clean their room, and help with their laundry, they shouldn’t get the keys to the family car. 

Mentoring the next generation is no small task, but I believe if we will actively engage in these goals, we will see the direct fruit in our families, schools, churches, and our community.