Change This One Perspective … Love Leading Kids Again


We need adults who are willing to stay in the grind and teach, employ, coach, or to lead kids. Our future depends on it.

As I’ve kept my ear to the ground over the last few years, I have noticed a pattern in our adult population who work with students, including educators, coaches, parents and employers. The pattern became obvious when I heard statements like:

-- “I’m getting weary of trying to manage my classroom.”

-- “My kids take up so much of my time. I have no time for myself.”

-- “These young athletes don’t respect our coaching staff.”

-- “I feel guilty when I say it, but I sometimes regret the job I took teaching kids.”

It’s been said thousands of times over the years — parenting is not for the fainthearted. For that matter, neither is teaching. Or coaching. Anyone who’s worked with young people has felt the drama of attempting to lead an immature audience. It’s emotionally expensive. I would contend, however, we may feel it more today than ever. Too many of us would even say kids make us downright “unhappy.”

Are You Happy?

Today, American parents are 13% less happy than American non-parents, the largest gap in a set of 22 developed countries studied. This simply means, adults who’ve chosen to have children report they are less happy than those who are SINKS (single income, with No Kids) or DINKS (Double Income, No Kids).

The Millennial Generation has given way to Generation Z, and this new population is just plain smaller. You can argue as to why, but fewer people are choosing to have babies and raise kids. Adults are finding their fulfillment elsewhere. They seek satisfaction in life outside of bearing children, at least for now. Why?

-- They are hard to lead and to teach.

-- They are expensive to raise and to please.

-- They consume lots of time and attention.

-- They require us to be selfless and sacrificial.

Once again, kids are not for the fainthearted.

The reasons why are more numerous than meets the eye. For instance, when I talk to couples who don’t have children, or people who got out of teaching and are former educators, I hear the following rationale:

1. “My hands were tied in the classroom. I wasn’t allowed to discipline students in the way they needed to be disciplined and our budget was cut so much, I had to purchase quite a few items I needed with my own money.”

2. “My husband and I talk about having children, but right now we need both full-time incomes just to maintain our current standard of living. If we have kids, I want to be able to be home for them, and I can’t right now.”

3. “I left coaching because of the parents, not the student athletes. I can’t stand an overbearing mother or father who doesn’t trust another adult to talk to their son and offer the playing time they deserve. So, I got out.”

4. “Leading kids is too stressful these days. They don’t respect me and they think they know everything already. Who knows? Maybe they do. But if they do, then they sure don’t need me around.”

A Different Perspective

I am not arguing that these people are wrong. I am not even saying that kids are not taxing to teach, to employ, to coach, or to lead. What I am saying is — we need adults who are willing to stay in the grind and do it. Our future depends on it.

Over my 37-year career of teaching and working with students, I have been tempted many times to try something else. I certainly feel I am less effective today than I was twenty-five years ago, when it comes to connecting with high school and college students. I have chosen to stay in the field, however, because students need caring adults — even outside of their homes — to offer guidance as they enter adulthood. It really does take a village.

My wife and I never delegated our parental responsibility for our two children, but we’ve thanked their teachers, their coaches, their drama directors and their youth workers over and over again for adding their voices to the mix. When our kids turned 13, we created a “rite of passage” experience for each of them, inviting caring adults to mentor them, and echo our values in their lives. As they sought out careers, we’ve introduced professionals to our kids, who do what they dream of doing. Both of my kids are now adults and can point to dozens of incredible mentors they’ve learned from over the years, outside of their parents.

May I tell you my secret for staying in the business of leading and teaching students? I can summarize it in one sentence:

[Tweet “Most adults see youth as a problem. I see them as a solution.”]

May I encourage you today? Don’t give up on kids. Even if you experience days where you don’t feel “happy” working with them, remember they are the future. Personally, I’ve found that when I keep my eye on the satisfying task of shaping our future through investing in students—I can make it through another year.


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