Do you remember when you were a teenager?
Was it ten years ago? Twenty? Thirty?
Whatever the case may be, times have certainly changed.
Oh sure… there are some things that will never change. For example, there is the attention we pay to teenage pregnancies, teen drug and alcohol abuse, teens’ emotional maturity, the financial inequalities among classmates’ families, and then the ever-present and growing issues centered on ethnic (and other) identity pressures.
And then there are the “new” issues, many of which are facilitated by technology.
Pornography, cyberbullying, and (yes) immediate access to a potentially bottomless pit of information are the “new” issues facing today’s teens.
Today’s TeenBuilding post is not about the “new” challenges today’s teens face.
On the contrary, today’s post focuses on the one thing most teens have always had: parents or guardians.
By definition, a parent is (1) one that begets or brings forth offspring; and (2) the material or source from which something is derived.
Similarly, my smart friend, Google, says a guardian is “a person who looks after and is legally responsible for someone who is unable to manage their own affairs, especially an incompetent or disabled person or a child...”
So, it would seem that a parent is expected to be a guardian, but a guardian is not necessarily a parent.
Unlike the teenagers of yesteryear, today’s teenagers are far more likely to be more knowledgeable than their parents when it comes to a broader understanding of the “real” world. Google, Yahoo, YouTube, and the internet, in general, have ushered in an era where access to information can be equally awesome, scary, uplifting, revolting, and life-changing… all at the same time.
But let’s not confuse knowledge and information with wisdom.
In our FREE seminars with today’s teens, TeenBuilding USA draws a stark contrast between knowledge and wisdom.
Essentially, you can be the “smartest person in the world.” But if you don’t use your knowledge, you are fundamentally on the same level as a person who lacks understanding.
THIS, my friends, is the message we must work tirelessly to get across to our teenagers.
Wisdom is applied knowledge.
Without knowledge, there can be no wisdom.
Indeed, knowledge is heaped upon us from many different avenues.
We gain knowledge from books, conversations, courses, experiences, and from simply enjoying the input gleaned from our six senses.
Because of the tremendous changes teenagers face in what will ultimately prove to be the most critical stages of their lives, they often don’t fully understand the context of what they see, how they feel, or where their adolescent decisions can lead to life-changing actions.
Whose job is it to provide context of what they see, how they feel, or where things can potentially go wrong based on their teenage behavior.
Answer: YOU… the parent or guardian.
But not every parent or guardian is comfortable with having those super-important conversations. As a father of daughters, I often leave certain topics of conversations to my wife. All dads might not have the same opportunity. Likewise, many parents are often unsure of the “right” time to discuss drugs, sex, peer-pressure and other intense teen-related topics. Interestingly enough, these are adult-oriented topics… which is precisely why parents and guardians absolutely NEED to have these types of discussions with their teenager, regardless of the level of discomfort.
If, like many parents, you would like assistance in facilitating a contextual discussion with your teenager, consider bookmarking this blog for guidance on how to discuss delicate-but-necessary topics with your teenager(s). This is the first blog post in what will be a continuing community forum on what WE can do to help our teenagers achieve success in a world where they are growing up faster than ever.
If you are an administrator seeking a community-based non-profit that genuinely cares about our future leaders, contact TeenBuilding USA for a FREE seminar.
TeenBuilding USA gives students, staff, and educators candid insight, relevant resources and meaningful mentorship in their respective quest to prepare for the future.
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The question is…
What do YOU want to achieve?
John H. Clark III
John H. Clark III is an optimistic realist.