The world today our teens are living in is far different from the one in which we, the parents, grew up. While we bought textbooks and attended college classes to gain information from knowledgeable professors, students now log on to their computers and search for anything they need to know. If they don’t feel like reading, they can watch a YouTube video. If they don’t like the perspective they find, they can simply find another “expert” online. If they need bolstering that their idea is the best, it isn’t difficult to find a Facebook group of people who agree. The reality is this: students are not short on information, but they lack wisdom for applying this information to real life situations.
Students are not short on information, but they lack wisdom for applying this information to real life situations.
Few have studied Generation Y more than Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders, a character and leadership development company. In his book Artificial Maturity, Elmore explains how teens have overexposure to information yet underexposure to genuine life experience. The application of “head” knowledge has been lost, thus creating false confidence in our teens. True confidence comes from knowing they can solve the problems they encounter via life experience.
The Downside of Convenience
Certainly, technology makes our lives more convenient, but is that always good?
Elmore notes, “Our world has become so convenient, instant, simple and virtual that certain intellectual, emotional, relational and spiritual muscles atrophy because they don’t get exercised.”
Students often lack virtues that are crucial to healthy adulthood like:
Patience/delayed gratification - the ability to wait on a reward that comes slowly
Connection/people skills - the ability to build common ground with those unlike you
Responsibility/morals and ethics - the ability to do what’s right even when acting alone
Endurance/tenacity - the ability to stay committed and complete work toward a goal
Empathy - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
Many of these virtues are not reflected in a student’s book knowledge or IQ but by their Emotional Intelligence Quotient, or EQ.
What's your EQ?
The concept of Emotional Intelligence was first proposed in the early 1990’s by John
Mayer of the University of New Hampshire and Yale professor Peter Salovey and later popularized by New York Times bestselling author Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence. The Institute for Health and Human Potential defines emotional intelligence as “awareness that emotions can drive behavior and impact people both positively or negatively and that learning to manage emotions is vital.”
According to Goleman, there are five key elements to emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. But, how do we develop these traits? One of the best ways I have found it through a gap year - a year between high school and college when students step outside the traditional classroom to focus on growth in other areas of their lives.
A good gap year program focuses on developing the 5 key elements of Emotional Intelligence as well as the virtues of patience, responsibility, and tenacity. This, in turn, can lead students towards success in college, their personal lives, and their future careers. Additionally, a strong EQ helps students acquire the skills and attributes that colleges and employers look for: maturity, confidence, problem-solving, communications skills, and independence.
Learn about some of the excellent faith based gap year programs that help students develop their EQ in my new book The Gap Year Guide. Not only does the guide answer the most frequent questions parents have about gap year programs, it also highlights over a dozen programs that focus on character and leadership development in teens.