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.
Communication is the most vital part of a relationship. Bad communication is better than none at all and yet many relationships do not work at communicating. Sometimes we behave as if we can put our relationship on autopilot and we will live in bliss with no effort. There is no such thing as auto pilot when it comes to relationship.
Most every relationship that is experiencing problems began with a breakdown in communication. It requires work, real work, to communicate effectively. The biggest problem we create is we believe that all the sweet talk we do at the beginning of a relationship is the norm. It isn’t. We are simply flirting or getting to know each other, finding common ground. Yes it feels good, but most of the time that sort of conversation is shallow.
Our selection of a significant other, to a degree, reflects our self image. Some of the teens and young adults I have mentored continue to choose the same sort of people that they just broke up with. The values of the new boyfriend or girlfriend is no different than the last ones. And what do they have in common? My young mentees share these same values with their significant other. Surprised?
Many times I have asked about their situation and heard the disappointment in their voices at the way they are treated, again. Some have even justified the abuse they receive. One young lady told she deserves to be hit by her boyfriend. No human being deserves abuse, but until a person values themselves this will continue. True change begins with self, first.
“Mr. Augie they killed him!” the voice on the phone nearly shouted. It was “Bill” and he was crying. His best friend, a young man I had mentored, “Charlie,” had been murdered. He was gunned down by rivals. I always knew that this was a possibility, but I had never prepared for the moment. It was here and it left me feeling desperate, helpless .
The death of a teen, especially to violence, will never make sense to the rational mind. The next few days were a blur as I tried to go on with my life through my tears and darkness. He was 16 years old. That’s all. He had not started to live yet. All the memories of our conversations, our letters when he was in prison and our outings flooded my thoughts.
Even though time has moved on now and I have accepted his death, the memories of that day are still painful.
A mentor is not a surrogate parent. Although this should be obvious I have met mentors who somehow, along the way begin to behave as if they are the parent, although they are one with no authority. When the mentor arrives at this conclusion they have left their moorings as a mentor and are embarking on a new journey. Don’t mix the two.
There are several reasons why this line should not be crossed. The most important of which is that a child no matter how badly he has had it, will always love and desire to have his own parent’s, not a surrogate. The greatest strength of a mentor is that no matter what happens the mentor continues to be involved in the life of his mentee.
At the heart of an at-risk youth is their value system. In order to help them you will need to understand that value system. Does this mean you will agree with their system of values? No. In the past 28-years have heard it all. I have been told, by a young lady, why it was okay to take a beating from her boyfriend, I have been told why it is okay to sell drugs, why hitting back (retaliation attack) is important, why laws don’t apply in their hood, etc, etc, etc.
If you do not take the time to learn what your mentee’s value system is do not deceive yourself into thinking you will be able to influence them. In order to understand someone’s value system you must invest time and sincerity into your relationship with them. If you fail to do this you will be branded a fake. You will lose respect and with that you will never earn the right to be heard.
When I was young I thought I had the greatest friends in the world. And in many ways I did, but what I didn’t realize is that over time people change. Our needs, desires, ambitions will change. Time and space will separate us and we will part ways with many people whom we once thought to be inseparable.
Along the way we will discover that there will be those who will always speak truth to us. There will be those who will stand by us even when we are wrong. There will be those who will genuinely care how we are doing. And these people will be very, very few in number. A true friend is a rare gem. Protect this relationship.