Speaking directly to a teen does not mean it is a negative conversation. It will prepare them for the world. Too often I hear adults, mostly parents, skirting an uncomfortable issue for the sake of their teen’s feelings. While we should never attack and insult we should also call death, death. We should call an overdose, an overdose.
The world and its ways do not care what bothers you or your child. Over protecting them from facing reality does not prepare them for it. If anything it places a false veil over the actual events. The best way to deal with the grim realities that accompany a tragedy it to call it as it is.
Reading is perhaps the most vital skill which all youth must possess. And yet the vast majority of the young men I have mentored do not read. Some, very few at that, become avid readers later in life once the school of hard knocks has dealt them some serious lessons. But could this be the great deterrent to those hard knocks?
We will never know. In most cases, they have had no example of the benefits of reading or of books in their lives. Most of the homes I have ventured into are devoid of books. Children that read are usually the offspring of parents who value reading. It will difficult to be a student of life without an interest in reading.
Passive parenting rarely produces teenagers who are problem solvers. When it does it was accidental. If anything, passive parenting serves to produce teens who feel that they are entitled to get their way. These are the youngsters who will behave as if they know more than their boss who happens to have years of experience.
In my experience, I have witnessed this scenario play out dozens of times. The teen openly defies the boss, is fired or reprimanded, but still fails to understand his or her place in the great scheme of things. They go home, complain to their passive parent, who in turn does not set them straight with some actual parenting. Instead this weak parent will call the boss to try to smooth things over for their offspring.
Life as a teenager is hard enough, but when that teen is also immature life becomes unnecessarily more difficult. For those who lack understanding, there is a difference between this stage of life and the maturity that is expected for their age. To be a teen doesn’t mean that there isn’t a level of maturity that could and should be attained.
An immature teen will have a lot of drama in his life. There will always be issues. Their issues will range from problems with others, usually because of gossip, to their inability to resolve age appropriate obstacles. Almost always this sort of teen is devoid of guidance or family structure.
The day they sentenced him to life in prison my heart broke. But the moment had been long in the making.
Over the years I have been asked on several occasions to go to court by a young man. Most of the time he hopes that I will influence the outcome. A time or two this has been the case, however most of the time the sequence of events leading to this moment have already been set into motion. The outcome is a foregone conclusion.One does not arrive in court by accident. It began many, many years ago and it began with willful disobedience.
During a class I was teaching on alcohol and DUI a student in the class said this, “Mr. Augie my parents will kill me if I call home from a party and tell them that I am so wasted and need help getting home.” This type of comment is not unique, I have heard it hundreds of times, however it is completely ungrounded. They will not kill you, but there will be consequences, and this lies at the heart of the teenager’s reluctance to call for help. “It’s like calling the cops on yourself,” I’ve been told. Maybe so, however there are greater issues at hand to be considered. First and foremost, there should be consequences. Next, a factor that lends to this conclusion is that of assumption. Where there is a void an assumption is made.
Many times I have questioned both parents and teens about the specifics of the rules they live under and very, very few times have such rules been established. Many times parents have told me that their kids know what the rules are, but they haven’t been able to tell me how they know this. Again they are living in the valley of assumption and so are their kids. So what will happen when junior goes out and drinks too much? No one knows. Most likely he’ll try to get home somehow and keep it from mom and dad.
Parents, it is absolutely imperative that you have this conversation with your young adult. No, you are not giving them permission to drink or get high by having this conversation. To start, outline your values, morals, and expectations for them as young adults. These should be the ones you model as their parent, because they are the only ones that will matter. Let your teenager know how you would feel if they were to get intoxicated and/or high. This is a time to be brutally honest, but keep it on point. You are only discussing how that particular action would affect you. It is a hypothetical point you are making.
Many times I have heard either directly or indirectly about some well-meaning adult who decided to share the mistakes she made in an effort to be “real.” The problem is how such a confession was received. It gave their teenager the impression that they could do the same thing. The rational is very simple. “If they did that then I should be allowed to do the same thing.” Don’t forget most teenagers don’t think their parents are too bright. (They will discover the wisdom of their parents some time later in life.) Just because you did something stupid doesn’t mean your teenager is going to see the lesson and put it into practice.
Instead explain to your child that if they were to make such a bad decision, in time you will get over the disappointment, but if something were to happen to them you may not survive that pain. Tell them you love them and how much they mean to you. Getting tearful is okay. We are talking about life and death. Then tell your children what you want them to do in very clear and specific terms. Keep this simple. Eliminate as many unspoken rules in the home. They only produce chaos, bad relationships and what’s worse, tragedy.