You are in for a real treat! This likely will be a chapter in my next self-published book and you are getting a sneak peek into information that will change your life. This is such a critical topic for youth and their families during such a critical time in of our lives. Parenting has clearly become more complicated as youth live their lives so publicly and (clearly not discretely) in social media and in their social circles.
For years, my practice has focused on working with youth and their families struggling with the need for independence while remaining dependent on their adult caregivers for financial, physical, and emotional support. Remember the old “storm and stress” cycle youth were said to experience? Well, let’s add the influence of media (inc. social media, print, TV, music), cultural influences (such as drug and alcohol use and experimentation, exposure to injustices and stereotyping), peer influences, and family dynamics) into the mix.
I am struck by the recent events of youth making very poor and impulsive choices that will impact their lives beyond their immediate future. Youth have a “live for today” mentality and have not the wisdom to think far enough ahead to recognize that things don’t just disappear. Behaviors captured on video, photos, Instagram, YouTube, etc. can follow you into adulthood.
But my point….a moment of fun could in a lifetime of pain and shame.
I am pained by the choices youth make to hurt and humiliate others without regard for another’s humanity and dignity and the adults that make excuses and rationalizations for this kind of behavior. Take for instance, the two young men in Ohio who were recently found guilty in sexually assaulting an intoxicated 16 y.o. female (see People magazine, April 1, 2013). The behaviors were reportedly captured in real time (text messages and cell phone snapshots) and shared on social media sites. Both boys are doing serious time for this crime. Sadly, all families lose (the victim and the boys’ families).
What has happened to our youth who violate the rights and boundaries of others without regard for legal consequences, parental disappointment, at the least, shame? While the media certainly plays a large role in portraying reality TV as real-life, ultimately we are our children’s moral guide and model for responsible and respectful behavior. So, how do we get our young men to live more responsible in an age and culture where almost “anything goes” and how do we raise conscious girls who respect and love themselves enough not to place themselves in compromising positions.
Parents…LISTEN UP…and please share with your teens.
Tips on Raising Responsible Boys:
- As parents we have to learn to listen, really listen more and judge less.
- We cannot be our children’s friends. Let their “boys” be their friends.
- Encourage manhood and masculinity. Help define or re define what being a real man is. Images of thug life, beating down women, dominating females, and showing bad manners is the wrong message being portrayed to our young men.
- Educate young men about the injustices in the world and how to handle them when confronted with the “injustices of the justice system.” Males of color are disproportionately represented in the prison system. Teach young men of color that the consequences for them are far greater than their non- minority counterparts.
- Instill values for community over self. Teach selflessness over selfishness.
Tips on Raising Conscientious Girls:
- As parents we have to learn to listen, really listen more and judge less and observe our girls. What they wear, how they speak, what they read, what they hear and what they listen to, who they socialize with.
- Model modesty and discretion in image, clothing, style, speech, appearance.
- Encourage mentors and positive role models. Help young girls believe in sisterhood again. Far too often I hear girls say, “ I don’t have female friends. I don’t get along with other females. I have more guy friends.” Where does this originate from?
- Consistently build your girl’s self- worth. Know your child’s vulnerability and weak spots. If your child is a follower, be cautious of the friends that they gravitate to.
- Fill in the gaps of the absent parent and place value on quality time over quantity and material possessions. Unmotivated parents create unmotivated kids. Excellent adults create children of excellence.
There is a growing concern that some parents are living their “adolescence” with their teens. That is a lop-sided equation. Parents may need to work through their own unresolved childhood issues. Don’t be afraid to seek help and guidance. No one is perfect, but it’s time for us to take personal responsibility for our choices and teach our children the same.