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Guiding teens toward adulthood

I have seen an increase in parental anguish over their teen’s continued and increasing entitlement and overall lack of accountability, discipline, desire and ability to work hard along with a basic disrespect toward authority and responsibility. I’ve experienced this myself. I’ve watched my son’s internal dialogue confirm his false perception of how life really is. His thinking is faulty and leads to faulty assumptions and beliefs, which leads to self defeating behaviors. How did we get here? I didn’t raise him to be this way. Where did I fail? Where has society changed that has caused this shift in the teen experience?

The teen years are developmentally marked with turmoil and transition, that hasn’t changed, but the issues and circumstances these generations are experiencing are different and changing more rapidly than they have in the past. Teens are notoriously self absorbed, and part of that means that they have a harder time seeing other perspectives without intentional training. In our abundance of all the material things, the abundance of entertainment, information, and superficial connection, not only is the value of these things decreased, but our kids cannot turn off the constant input, which deprives them of the internal processing time to evaluate what they are consuming. There is great power in the quieting of the noise.

We must help them create space, allow them to pay attention to their thoughts and their behaviors. This leads to ownership, ownership of their thoughts, behaviors, actions, in other words, intentionality. So much of what I’m seeing is a lack of intentionality and awareness of the consequences of their own thoughts on themselves and others with whom they have relationships with. Disciplining our mind to see things as they are and not as we wish them to be, disciplining ourselves to do the mundane things that make up a well lived life, disciplining ourselves to speak and act according to our values takes work but it is imperative if we wish to live a life of freedom.

Free people, truly free people, are people who have the life skills which allow them to navigate relationships and personal growth in a healthy and interdependent way within their environments. Free people are able to deal with trauma, conflict, disappointment and struggle, which life inherently holds for us. Freedom allows us to make choices and every choice has consequences. Understanding the consequences of our choices and foreseeing the risks involved defines leadership. All of which leads to effective adulthood, which is where we are trying to guide our teens.

When we were growing up, we had built in time and space to process and create an inner dialogue impacted mostly by our family, our own thoughts, and the books we read. We couldn't always talk to our friends, we couldn't be entertained 24-7, we didn't have the capabilities to "know everything" which gave us a certain humility that seems to be no longer available to the average citizen. Teens are witnessing busy adults, experiencing decreased meaningful connection leading to increased mental health issues related to isolation, and perhaps the most destructive, a decreased sense of self-agency and resiliency. Following this model of leadership skill building, the teen can begin to work those muscles out and gain the strength, endurance, resilience they need to become the effective adults we wish to see them become.

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