Teach a child (teen) in the way he should walk, and he will not depart from it.
“Popular teen star arrested for attempted robbery.” Blared the headline on Entertainment Tonight. I stopped in my tracks and my head swiveled around, No! Oh no! Not again! What has gone wrong with this famous and once beloved teen idol? What happens to so many of our teen stars? These teens are so persistent and disciplined. They work really hard to get to the pinnacle of their careers, and then something happens. Talent and hard work are not enough to prevent bad behavior.
Is it the success that goes to their head? Is it the influence of peer pressure? Do some of these stars just become too puffed up with pride? Are they just behaving like typical teens whose behavior gets blown out of proportion because they are in the public eye? The good news is most of these stars manage to turn their lives around eventually and become model citizens. An example is Vanilla Ice a well-known singer and entrepreneur, who is quoted as saying, “It took me a while and a lot of hard times to figure out my purpose. I am so happy with my life. I just want to help make other people happy too.” Parents, don’t panic. There is hope. Although I always feel it is unfair to speak about the reasons why celebrities behave the way they do, without knowing all the facts, we can certainly learn from them and use these moments as teaching points for our teens.
1. Discipline early and consistently.
I once had a three year old child in clinic, who behaved so badly — I was quite frazzled trying to examine her. Mom looked on almost finding it funny, and then said “I’m sorry, but she’s the only one we have so we tend to spoil her.” I turned to her and said, “You should discipline her because she’s your only one. Don’t you want your only child to succeed? Don’t you want the peace of mind to know that she’ll make it in this world that makes no excuses?” The behavior may be cute when your child is two, but by five, it’s bad behavior. And after 10 years, it’s dangerous and reckless behavior.
Discipline children from early on in life. Discipline does not equate to punishment. Discipline is teaching your child right from wrong, and giving them the tools to eventually be able to make decisions by themselves without you. It means respect and love for self and others, and respect for authority and property.
2. Faith matters!
Teach your children your faith. It is so important for children to be taught that there is indeed a higher power that we are all ultimately accountable to and it’s not just what mom or dad thinks. Live your faith, don’t just talk about it. Teens learn by example. Live and teach your children your family values and your faith and they will not walk away from them, even when they are not with you.
3. Know their peers.
Pay attention to the people your teen hangs out with. Don’t wait until the teen years before you start doing this. From the early days of elementary school, their friends will have a profound impact on the way they think. Know their friends’ values. Some teens have told me “My friends do drugs but I think it’s dumb, so I don’t do it.” Unfortunately, the danger begins when you hang around people who do drugs, smoke, drink, et cetera. Eventually it ceases to shock you. Before long, it’s not so dumb, and your teen says, “Oh, what’s the big deal?” and takes that first smoke or drink or sniff and becomes just like the people they’re hanging out with.
4. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you live.
Watch how you behave in front of your teen. It’s not enough to tell them how to behave. You’re always under scrutiny by your teen. I remember driving up to a gated community once, and the gatekeeper had gone to the bathroom. It had been a long day and I was tired. I sulked, “I’m so tired, is this the time he chose to go to the bathroom?” My now grown kids were disappointed in my behavior and proceeded to tell me that I was behaving like a spoiled child. I was sufficiently embarrassed. They were absolutely right, and I was glad they had pointed it out to me. I smiled on the inside. All those times I used those very words on them; seems like they were listening, after all.
Remember the words of Dr. John C Maxwell, “People do what people see.” I’ve seen countless teens bow their heads in shame because their parents were behaving badly. Parents don’t realize that their teens are listening and watching and will eventually behave the same way towards them, and society as a whole.
5. Spend quality time with your family
Have dinner together as often as possible. Do things with your teens that they consider fun. Teach them about goal setting, the values of persistence and hard work as well as the value of planning for their future. Let your teens know they are precious and loved. Teach them about self-esteem by verbalizing their successes and accomplishments. People who know they are loved tend to treat others with respect and dignity.
As for our teen celebrities, I wish them well. We should pick the best traits from them, like the drive, persistence and work ethic that got them to where they are. But teens also need to be taught about faith and family values and how to live disciplined lives. They should be taught to value themselves and others from an early age. The best way to teach them is to live it consistently in front of them.