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Many years ago, I taught two students from the same graduating class who were the epitome of the perfect student. They had strong family units and were always polite, respectful, and teachable. They also were set to be the valedictorian and salutatorian. Most of their classmates, and most people in general, believe that being at the top of one’s class guarantees that the “most likely to succeed”label will apply. However, their fates weren’t filled with the success one might assume.
Each was in a relationship that mattered a great deal, but hasty decisions based on love derailed them. One dropped out midway through senior year and ran away to pursue the relationship. The other finished high school, only to fail out of university the first semester after skipping classes to be with what the kids call the “LOML”(love of my life). They did what many people today (adults included) believe is the best thing to do: “Live in the moment; do what you feel is right!”But they were being fed lies that are disguised as truths. Our kids are hearing lies, too. So it’s important to direct our kids away from these unhealthy beliefs. Here are 4 to watch for.
What teenager doesn’t love risks? You only live once, right?! This attitude enables reckless and risky behavior, and even then, the rewards don’t exactly pay off for future benefits. This narrow-minded spirit makes it seem to kids that the world revolves around them–what is lacking is the awareness of how their actions will affect others around them. Take the students I mentioned earlier. Their families were disappointed to see their kids make impulsive decisions and abandon their academic goals and achievements. Something to look out for in your own kids: If you sense that they are living the YOLO life, encourage them to consider how their choices will impact the family, and listen to what they are struggling with that has led them to make these decisions. It is important to empathize with our kids’ struggles, yet help them make wise choices.
2. “Live your truth.â€
While this movement started out as an innocent call-to-action to live authentically, it has become an excuse to redefine truth as a matter of personal preference and convenience. As it turns out, the more kids lean into “living your truth,”the more their mental health suffers because creating an identity becomes top priority while they neglect to develop their character. They assume they should be respected for their views and disregard anyone who says they’re wrong or misguided. So they only seek out those who affirm them, creating a small echo chamber that praises them for their boldness. If you see your kids building up walls or struggling with insecurity, seek ways of opening a dialog with them that conveys the importance of striving to live with wholesome values and developing character over individual truth.
3. “You do you!â€
This mindset encourages the most selfish behaviors while building up boundaries to protect them from the judgment they might face in making impulsive choices. There’s also an additional layer of protection that ensures they know that what they are doing is right. If you sense that your kids are making questionable decisions and lack any self-awareness in the moment, remind them that who they are, and how other people view them, will go a long way in determining whether they will succeed or fail in life. Their peers aren’t going to intervene, so if you don’t, nobody will.
4. “I don’t care what other people think of me.â€
Considering my line of work, I can count on three things being true: death, taxes, and students saying they don’t care what other people think. If you feel like your kids aren’t receiving and reflecting on the guidance you give them, remind them of the impression they are making on their teachers, bosses, coworkers, and even their friends. Self-awareness and self-control are low priorities for a lot of kids. However, sharing with them how you earned your last promotion, or how you impressed a teacher when you were in school, or even discussing how you disagreed yet respected someone’s opinion despite that they voted differently from you, will go a long way in helping them see that they should take more stock in what people think of them.
Sound off: What are some other unhealthy beliefs kids confuse for truth?
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