Category Archives: Mentoring

Speak Directly

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.

To Read or Not to Read

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.

“Smart” versus Work Ethic

When given the choice between hiring someone who is “smart” and someone with good work ethic, the latter wins every time. There is no sin in being smart or trying to be smarter, but the point is that very few people who are “smart” have poor work ethic. Most of the smart people I have met in my life are people who work hard.

Even in the classroom, I have found the same result. The majority of the teens I have known over the years, the ones who are “smart,” work very hard to earn the grades they receive. I have wondered this outloud for years, “funny how the harder a high school student works, the smarter he is.” Yes it is interesting, indeed.

Passive Parenting and Teens

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.

Living Versus Existing

Living and existing are not the same thing. Many of the young men and women I have mentored have dropped out of high school. Out of the ones I have stayed in touch with most of them have struggled to makes a modest living. Their lack of preparation has left them with minimum wage jobs or dead end jobs.

An education is not an end-all and does not guarantee financial success, but it does open doors of opportunity. Most of my young friends covet a life of excitement and do their best to be happy, but when one lives from paycheck to paycheck or as they say “hand to mouth” there is very little to look forward to other than another day working marathon hours to survive. This is not living. It is merely existing.

No Such Expert

There is no such thing as an expert on youth. Youth culture is dynamic and therefore shifts continuously. It is always  troubling to meet someone who presents themselves as an expert in youth, or makes a claims to know everything there is to know about youth. I much prefer the person who is asking questions, absorbing feedback, reading and opining.

Youth culture continuously shifts, it changes, it is dynamic. The most popular art form with youth culture continues to be music, however reading has also gained great strength; just ask our friend Harry Potter. Rap music has also produced a new and unique brand of poetry and poems. All of this has happened within youth culture. The best we can hope to accomplish in terms of expertise is to be dedicated students of youth culture.

Lessons in a Courtroom

A day in court can emphasize the need to have purpose in your life. For many of my middle class friends the idea that one needs to have purpose in one’s life is a no-brainer. It’s one of those statements that will be met with a sarcastic remark. Something along the lines of, “no kidding,” or worse.

This is not the case for many of the young men and young women I have seen in court. Far too many live in state of stunted animation. There is no planning for a better tomorrow. What comes along, comes along. For many that something is idle time, which indeed is the devil’s workshop. Even if there are thoughts of a goal there is no hurry. Entertainment is king and so goals can wait.