Drivers and Passengers–Tim Elmore, Growing Leaders

I’ve been musing over a critical issue in our culture today. Adults are passing on a damaging trait to our children. The problem and solution can be summarized in a “Habitude.”®  The curriculum, Habitudes—Images that Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes represents a fresh way to teach timeless life skills to kids in our culture today. One of my favorite “Habitudes”®  is called “Drivers and Passengers.”

Consider this. People get into a car with different perspectives, based on whether they are driving the car, or merely a passenger on the trip. If you are the driver, you get into the car with a much greater sense of responsibility. After all, you’re the one making sure everyone gets to the destination.  And you develop the skills to do so.  If you’re the passenger, your goal is to make the ride fun, so you don’t get bored.  If you don’t get to the desired location, you can always blame the driver.

Over the last forty-five years, this victim “blame game” has become rampant in our culture. People file lawsuits at the drop of a hat (or a hot coffee at McDonalds), our parents blame teachers when our kid’s grades are high enough; and we condition our children to live this way as they grow into adults. We are becoming a nation of passengers. Not long ago, a college graduate filed a lawsuit against her college. She wants the money back that she paid for tuition. Why? The grad said she hasn’t found gainful employment since earning her bachelor’s degree just a few months ago.  She says, “They have not tried hard enough to help me.”

A friend of mine read a magazine awhile back that had two articles cheering on toddlers for going to day care from dawn to dusk.  It would make them independent and strong.  Children needed to learn, and early, that mommy wouldn’t always be there for them and they would have to stand on their own two little feet.  But my friend then pointed out  two other articles in the same magazine complaining that government or employers were not providing enough free day care.  Apparently, the virtues of independence are great for toddlers, but don’t extend to adults.

After reading a bit about the college being sued, this seems like a classic case of “drivers and passengers.”  The plaintiff would like to blame someone for her unemployment. To be honest, I am sorry for her.  But guess what, young lady?  You are not alone. Nearly 10% of America is without jobs. And the more you try to blame someone else for your state, the less responsibility you’ll take for your own life. This case is just one notch above the woman who called 911 last spring because McDonald’s was out of chicken nuggets.  The poor woman needed her nuggets and felt the police should help.

Please understand– I am not a man without mercy.  The disgruntled student has school loans to pay, just like I have a stack of bills to pay. But check out the rest of the story.  Her college offers lifetime free services for graduates. It is excellent service, too, according to previous graduates. The problem is not the school; it is a sagging economy and a blaming student. The harried mom with a career needs help.  But as I reflect on my past, I have learned that the more I search for others to blame for my poor destination so far… the more I lose any sense of control over where my life is going.

It’s time to take the wheel, and with God’s help, cause our kids to assume responsibility for where they’re going. When they do, they’ll find this attitude is very attractive to those around them.

It’s your destination. It’s your life.

–Tim Elmore

Abandonment or Abundance- Tim Elmore, Growing Leaders

In my recent book, Generation iY—Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, I suggest a handful of reasons why kids today (Generation iY) are getting “stuck” and are disabled from growing up. They’re unprepared for life after school is done. Adulthood sneaks up and ambushes them.

I believe nearly every struggle a kid has today can be summarized with one of two words. They have had too much or too little adult involvement in their life. Certainly this is not true for every student. There are many homes and schools and churches in America that have spooned out the right doses of these two elements I am talking about. Sadly, millions of children have gotten too much of one of them. The words represent extremes—but they are a mouthful.

Many students experience one of two extremes: abandonment or abundance.

1.  Abandonment – Leaves them too empty of resources to know how to act as an adult.

2.  Abundance – Leave them too full of resources to function independently as an adult.

Jason’s dad abandoned him emotionally when he was six years old. Dad left him (and his entire family) when he was twelve. Jason is in his late twenties now but has never recovered. While he functions at a job, emotionally he is at the maturity level of a thirteen year old.

Keith is 27 years old. His problem is not abandonment. In fact, quite the opposite. His parents have done too much for him. When he needs money—his dad’s got it for him. When he needs his clothes washed—mom is there. When he needs transportation or entertainment—he’s got it. Keith is paralyzed emotionally because he never had to grow up. His problem is abundance.

Think about the young people you know who struggle with life. With few exceptions, I believe you can probably point to one of these two extremes—abandonment or abundance—as a cause.

Millions of students today are unable or unwilling to leave childhood and enter adulthood. But stop and think about it. Adulthood has never been more complex (taxes, the economy, healthcare, the job market, etc.) Adolescence has never been more pleasurable. What incentive do they have to leave their world and enter yours?

We must get them ready. I’m curious—how are you addressing these two extremes above? What are you doing to get young people ready for life?


The Problem is Us: Tim Elmore, Guest writer

Sometimes I get misunderstood as a guy who’s against kids. Since publishing my latest book, Generation iY—Our Last Chance to Save their Future, some think I whine about how this generation of students are undisciplined and feel entitled.

Actually, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I love this generation of students. But they’re in trouble. More than you may think. According to Michelle Rhea, former chancellor of the Washington D.C. public school system, “The truth is, despite a handful of reforms, the state of American education is pitiful and it’s getting worse. Spending in school has more than doubled in the last three decades, but the increased resources haven’t produced better results. The U.S. is currently 21st, 23rd and 25th among 30 developed nations in science, reading and math, respectively. The children in our schools today will be the first generation of Americans who will be less educated than the previous generation.”[i]

Ugh. It’s both sad and unnecessary. So what’s the problem? Why are 3 of every 10 students dropping out of high school?  I have an educated guess.

  • They’re not necessarily stupid.
  • They’re not necessarily bad.
  • They’re not necessarily troubled.

They are bored and have disengaged teachers. Not all of them. Many teachers today are fabulous and are my heroes. But far too many moan about the need for “student engagement” when they’re the ones that need to re-engage.

So, how can so many bad teachers be teaching? It’s simple. It’s the only industry I know where you can perform poorly and keep your job. One of the key problems in American education today: “tenure.” It’s all about job security. Even if you’re a pitifully unproductive teacher—you get to stay in front of the class. So, if the bad teacher won’t leave…the students do.  By the millions each year. The new chapter president in the D.C. teachers’ Union said his top priority is job security for teachers. You see—education is not about the kids. It’s about the adults. That’s a crime.

When I sound the alarm about “Generation iY” I’m not whining about the students. Quite the opposite. I am challenging parents, teachers, coaches and youth workers to re-engage in the most important task we have today—preparing our kids to lead the way into the future.

What are some steps we can take?  Here are a few.

  1. Join us as we engage in this challenge. You can give online at:
  2. Check out Michelle Rhea’s campaign: Students First. (She’s formed a lobbying group to counter the special interests that have hurt graduation rates.)
  3. Read and pass on our latest book, Generation iY—Our Last Chance to Save Their Future. Just go to:

Let’s act now. Let’s solve this problem by first admitting: the problem is us.


[i] Michelle Rhea, “I’m Not Done Fighting,” Newsweek, December 13, 2010, p. 36.