Raising Grateful Tweens in the Digital Age & Our 2020 Grateful Acknowledgment Challenge



2019 was a year of growth and development for my boys, and they’ve entered this stage of their lives that really begins to let their personalities shine. They’re more comfortable in their place in the world and heading into “tweendom”. Tweens are somewhat of a newly named category of kids that ranges in ages from typically 7 or 8 until they are officially teens. They walk and talk like teenagers but haven’t fine-tuned the maturity that teens typically achieve. They are “in-between” being little kids and teenagers and want to feel like they’re part of the more grown-up things that come with being teenagers.

The generation that is in or heading into that category is unique in that they were born and spent their formative years on the cusp of a digital transformation. Though that buzzword has only been around a few years, there have been many digital transformations over the last few decades and a major one began around the year 2010. Like their parents before them who grew up in the late ’90s, they had a more primitive upbringing technically speaking than the generation that is coming into the world today.

In 2010 Instagram was in its infancy. Snapchat came along a year later but wouldn’t become the dominant platform for today’s kids for around 2 years after it was founded. These faster-paced forms of social media have content that follows trends while catering to the short attention spans this generation seems to have. And who can blame them? Being born with the majority of the world’s vast knowledge of all things at their fingertips means a more natural inclination to want to fit more information into their heads, which means reducing the amount of focus available for anyone specific topic.

This generation saw a gradual blossoming of AI and robotics, apps, tools, and digital assistants. Smart homes, smart cars, smart lunchboxes, and microwaves. They weren’t born with all of today’s available technology at their fingertips, but slowly gained access and appreciation of it as they were developing. Because of this, the kids in this category are obsessed with memes and other viral internet phenomena. These things define their entire existence and they use the same repetitive patterns we use when teaching toddlers basic information like numbers and colors. Meme phrases and spoken hashtags are a constant factor in our lives, and not a single day goes by that I don’t learn a new word or phrase that becomes viral like a wave across the globe within days and interjects itself into social media, forums, YouTube, even advertisements and mainstream media.

I’ve always been fascinated with the spread of information and how it happens, so it’s slightly humorous to me how much faster this occurs in this day and age compared to not only my own childhood but all the generations before me. Split-second information exchange gets faster and faster, just as our lives seem to do. One of the most prominent popular internet culture topics in the last few years has been internet challenges. These challenges are identified using hashtags and each typically lasts from a few days to a few weeks, with the occasional viral challenge lasting much longer. One of the more negative challenges that gave the media a buzz happened in 2017 with the “Tide Pod challenge” where teenagers were filming themselves eating and ingesting laundry soap pods on camera for likes and was so widely known that it made a mark on the reputations of the entire generation associated with it earning them the title of “The Tide Pod Generation” in many media outlets. Other more positive challenges include the “Ice bucket challenge” to raise awareness for and donations for the ALS foundation. As a parent of a lot of kids in this generation, I deal with my fair share of these challenges. Some are fun and some are just plain annoying, including the extremely popular “#cheesedchallenge” where my own flesh and blood threw a piece of cheese at my face and shared the video on social media. Luckily, my own kids generally choose humorous and fun challenges more often than not.

This trend in our household, along with other Grateful Leadership challenges we’ve done here at the CGL gave me an idea for our 2020 Grateful Acknowledgement challenge. The first task in our challenge was to make a list of 20 people in our daily lives that we feel deserve an acknowledgment which we completed this previous weekend. Among our list is the crossing guard and lunch lady at the school. There are family members, the librarian, the bus driver, some teachers and the YMCA instructors and lifeguards. With this list we will create two acknowledgement cards per month to thank these people for their places in our lives. We’ve done similar things before, however this time we’re adding a bit of school curriculum from our statistics lessons to the challenge. We will log the reactions to these acknowledgments with information about each one and discuss the results. I will keep the full details to myself until all their reports and notes about the interactions come in and have them give predictions for the results on our strategy board.


My kids are all very excited about this new learning experiment, and I love that I can incorporate Grateful Leadership principals into our . I hope this experiment will be an excellent lesson in various topics, and at the same time instill life long habits of showing gratitude and expressing acknowledgment, with the additional bonus of making 20 people smile, and perhaps making a real difference in their lives!