When I was growing up there were fire drills not lockdowns, fists not knives, playground bullying ended at the school gate, divorce was rare, students had less money, there were no mobile phones or internet and drugs and alcohol were prevalent but the harder drugs weren’t so readily available. Although the average teenager has more money and material possessions these days many of the problems they face are still the same as a generation ago – depression, first loves and sexual encounters, puberty, exam stresses, bullying, peer pressure, vindictive teachers and nagging parents just to name a few. There are many lessons to impart on your children, but at the end of the day, five rise to the top for me. Here they are.
1. Bullies and Self-Respect
When I look back, I view school as the necessary stepping stone that brought me to where I wanted to be later in life, like a speed bump to get over then move on. The best thing about school was the lifelong friends I made. The people that weren’t my friends became history the minute school finished. This is something all teens need to recognise. Bullies will not always be in your life so don’t make rash decisions. Fortunately, I remember being teased but never bullied at school and I think it’s because I always stood up for myself and believed that bullies were cowards. (Or maybe I just had short person syndrome.) This is something I taught my children and they too never experienced bullying nor did they bully. Bullying is a sign of weak character. Likewise, I have taught my sons never to hit a female nor to stand by and watch a women or child be abused. Never stay with someone that is abusive. They are sucking away your soul and not bringing happiness into your life.
2. Swearing and Manners
Swearing should not be used abusively, but it can facilitate letting off steam. Excessive swearing is a sign of ignorance and results is an inability to communicate as people turn off their ears to profanity. So take a step back when you’re angry and get perspective. Imagine you’re a fly on the wall watching your behaviour. Are you over reacting? Are you being irrational? Are you going to regret your actions? Good manners go a long way. People will respond better to your requests if you are polite and say please and thank you. Express yourself. Never be scared to tell someone you love them, that you’re happy or unhappy. Honesty is the best policy – always.
3. Ask Questions
Learning does not end when you leave school. It is just beginning. Always be open to new experiences, skills and passions as this will enrich your life. Never be afraid to ask questions. It is better to ask a silly question preventing you making a mistake than to be too scared to ask a question which you think is silly. Everyone learns from asking questions and making mistakes. In Thomas Edison’s words “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thank goodness Thomas Edison wasn’t a quitter! Give 100 per cent and try again if at first you don’t succeed.
4. Respect your Body & the environment
I have known many young women that seek to gain men’s attention by “giving themselves away.” Respect yourself. Sexual liberation is not synonymous with promiscuity. Sexual liberation is about enjoying your sexuality in a respectful, consenting encounter. Sexting can have dangerous consequences. It is not private. Protect your self image. Treat your body as a temple not a rubbish dump. You cannot trade it in for a new, improved and healthier model so you have to look after it. What you put in reflects what comes out in mind, body and soul. Be active, eat well and have a positive attitude. As Professor Randy Pausch advises be like Tiger rather than Eeyore. You don’t need to over indulge in alcohol or drugs to “fit in.” If friends pressure you to do something you don’t want to do then they’re not friends at all as they’re not respecting your wishes. Beautify your surroudings, don’t destroy them. It is much easier to be happy if you’re surrounded by a beautiful environment rather than one polluted and in ruins. Respect the habitats of animals and plants.
5. Be confident but not arrogant & treat others as you want to be treated
Your mindset is very important. Try to overcome your fears as by holding a fear you are restricting your life and holding yourself back. People who are assertive, confident and bold are often able to achieve more as they seek out opportunities. Ask and you may receive. But arrogance can build brick walls as people may not want to help you achieve your goals. Be prepared and think ahead. Plan and be organised but don’t be restricted by planning. Spontaneity can be good and exciting. Have fun. Take calculated risks rather than procrastinating but do not invest in get rich schemes as you will only get poor. To become comfortable financially you need to work hard and smart.
The most important lesson I taught my sons was to treat other people how you wish to be treated yourself. Imagine what it would be like to walk in someone else’s shoes and what you would do if you were in their situation. If you do this, you will have compassion and empathy and hopefully help others when you can. Of course the best way to teach is by example. My sons frequently make me proud so I guess I’ve done something right.
Before Professor Randy Pausch died (in July 2008) he gave a very inspiration last lecture, lessons he wanted to pass on to his own children, lessons that I too will remember.
So what’s the most important lesson you wish to teach your child?
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