Stop Lying. Your Children Need the Truth


Tim Elmore’s new book “Generation iY” has messed me up lately, particularly the chapter on amending the lies we told Generation iY. According to Tim, these are well intentioned platitudes we say to our children in order to encourage them, to build their self-esteem but at their core, they are lies that will potentially wreak havoc as kids get old. According to him, “we have lied to manipulate, and often we have lied out of love. We’ve even taught young people to lie to themselves. . . in ways that will eventually sabotage them as a young adult.”

Tim Emore Generation iY Lies we tell our children blog Maurilio Amorim

Out of Dr. Elmore’s list of seven lies, the one that hit me the hardest was:

You can be anything you want to be!

Wait a second Tim, isn’t this part of the American Dream? Don’t people risk everything to come to America so their children can grow in a place they can be anything they want?

But the trouble is that wanting something and being able to achieve it are two very different things. “Desire is not the same as talent, and talent is not the same as accomplishment,” says Elmore. And he is right. If you want to see the consequences of this lie, just watch an audition show of American Idol. It’s eerily sad to see parents encouraging tone-deaf children to continue pursuing a dream that’s just never going to happen, no matter how much affirmation the kid gets.

I love my boys, I want them to think big and I don’t want to put limitations on their lives. But more importantly than blindly telling them that they should strive for an NFL career if that’s what they really want, I need to help them align their strengths with opportunities. I need to help them discovered their sweet spot where they’re most likely to do well and grow in it. Working in an area of one’s weaknesses is exhausting, frustrating and often leads to failure.

So how do you deal with situations where the truth is not what the young person across from you wants to hear?

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  • Jennifer Stevens

    I must confess that's a personal struggle. This post has given me lots of thing about.

  • This is one of reasons I don't hate Simon Cowell as much as everyone else apparently does. Sure, he could use some more grace and kindness, but he tells these kids what their family and friends never had the guts to tell them: the truth!
    Great post, Maurilio. Great challenge for us as parents.

    • I'm with you on Simon. I hope that whomever takes his place on the show is able to be honest with these kids who need to hear the truth.

    • How Ironic, no less than 3 minutes ago, I wrote the title to an upcoming post. The title is "we all need a Simon Cowell in our lives." Everyone is so busy being optimistic they are completely forgetting about being a realistic!….It is crucial to be a little of both.

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  • Great post. This is certainly a challenge for me as a parent. One of my favorite quotes from Generation iY is, "From the time they're small, Generation iY has been told that they are the best. Living up to those expectations is stressful."

    • I've never thought of it that way, but I can see in my children a false sense of certainty in things they know nothing about. I wonder now if that stems from all the "you're the best" feedback they've been receiving since they were born.

  • Thanks Lori

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  • I did some writing recently concerning the first lie that you mention above, and it made me think of Nashville, the city of broken dreams. Not every singer that moves to Nashville is going to get a record deal, some won't even get a record heard! I wonder how many people back home are saying, "go for it, move to Nashville" versus those that are saying, "I'm sorry to say it but that would not be a good idea."
    If you are good enough to make it, then you do not need to find the talent scouts, the talent scouts will find you.

  • Finding the sweet spot, or middle ground is always the challenge. Society is in such extremes. This generation has grandparents that grew up without any praise whatsoever and therefore don't know how to esteem our youth. So as parents, we swing hard the other way, telling the children they can be anything they want. Life is organically disappointing enough without our extended family telling us we will only be mediocre. And I don't know how our kids will know if they've got what it takes unless they "go to Nashville" and find out what they've got. It's a very tough one to balance as a parent and educator.

  • Sara Knox

    I don't see the people who have goals like being on American Idol or moving to California to be an actor/actress as thinking too highly of themselves — I see it as the opposite. I see these as people who think their opportunities are limited and that these very far out possibilities are still the best ones that they have. I don't think the answer is to tell children that they can't be whatever they want to be, but to tell them that they can, but that there are many more options than the ones you see on TV or read about in magazines.

    • I understand not crushing someone's spirit, but at one point you need to help your child to find her sweet spot and move toward it. If your child is tone-challenged and no matter the amount of voice lessons, she can't hear the notes properly, you need to help her find find another goal. You cannot protect her until the point that when a teacher, a director or someone tells her the truth, and trust me it will happen, and her disappointment is so great that her self-esteem is crushed.

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