It is always an interesting conversation to have regarding how students “grow up” through the four-year progessive leadership model that is Norwich University. NU is a learning lab unto itself for students to take on various leadership positions, whether civilian or corps. We take, typically, recently graduated high schoolers and turn them into the future leaders of the world with our program. But, when, during the course of this leadership training, do we actually “grow up.”
Though nearly all, if not all, of the students here at NU are technically adults. I admit that I am guilty of referring to my subordinates as “kids” from time to time. The other day, a colleague of mine called me out publicly for using that term and I realized that I never really thought about it before. It was just part of my vocabulary when referring to my group of subordinates.
Maybe it is just my style of leadership and/or the desire to build bonds with the people I am leading. Maybe it is how my mind views and processes how I can make the most trustworthy connection to those under my purview. Maybe, more than likely, it is the need to give them a sense of security in their role as a subordinate. Maybe, it is just because I have a maternal streak in me so prominent that it affects my arguably effective leadership style.
Yes, I completely understand the idea behind avoiding the word “kid.” We are not kids, we are adults making adult decisions. The term “college kid” should be offensive considering that some of us are even making the very adult decision to put our lives on the line for our communities, states, and/or country. I never meant it in a condescending way and, as far as I can tell, no one has really taken it that way before. But, the argument still stands to reason.
However, I would like to argue that we associate so much wisdom and knowledge with the term “adult,” This is college, this is a time of learning and making mistakes. “Adults” are looked at to know without or with minimal mistakes. “Kids” are allowed to fail and be forgiven much more easily.
In a way, referring to my subordinates as “kids” is my way of allowing them to fail because I will forgive them and take blame. And, for the record, I have never once received a complaint from a subordinate about my calling them a “kid.” So, I must be doing something right.