A Thicker Skin

It seems more frequent that the news includes a story about a young person lashing out at society because he or she feels that life has done him or her wrong. This behavior isn’t limited to teenagers. Adults, too, are quick on the draw when they are challenged or involved in some kind of dispute. We are quick to fix blame on anyone else but ourselves. We are fast on the draw and ready to “shoot now and ask questions later.”

Humankind seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. People have lost jobs and homes. Investments have risen only to plummet. People have drawn lines in the sand and dared others different from themselves to cross those lines. Rulers across the world are killing their own people because of the lust for power and riches.

It’s all in the family

There’s not much we can do as individuals to control or change the behavior of governments. However, at the core of every society there is a building block—the family. Good teaching, role-modeling and seed-planting begin within the family unit. If the family is strong and parents instill values within the walls of their homes and the minds of their children, then our foundation will remain strong—even while life chips away at the brick and mortar.

Give your teenager tools

So let’s focus on the foundation. Dad, here’s where you can ply some wisdom and mental muscle toward your teenager—your son or daughter who is still relatively receptive and somewhat malleable. Help your teen develop a thicker skin. Throughout life your son or daughter will encounter ridicule, scorn, perhaps prejudice. There will always be insensitive people. Your challenge is to teach your child to absorb it, hold steady and move on. Confrontation requires at least two opposing sides. Not everything—not every disagreement or harsh word spoken in haste—requires a showdown.

And the rest is history

Remind your teenager of a few noteworthy individuals who, as objects of ridicule and scorn, chose to be proactive and constructive rather than reactive and confrontational. Walt Disney was once fired because his boss felt he had no artistic talent or good ideas. Beethoven was told by his music teacher that he would never compose anything worthwhile. A young man named Hershey was laughed at by businessmen because he insisted he could make a lot of money selling a chocolate bar. Fifteen year-old Albert Einstein was told he might as well drop out of school because he lacked interest and personal discipline. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for more than 25 years because of his opposition to apartheid and later became president of the new South Africa. Comedian Eddie Murphy’s brother and friends used to make fun of him when they saw him performing on a pretend stage and telling jokes to himself.

Remind your teenager that true strength comes from restraint. True genius lies in the ability to ignore ridicule and scorn and rise above it. People who pump themselves up by putting others down have to live with themselves. Your kid gets to live with a genius.

By dads2dads

Just Getting By

Ho-hum is not a goal

Too often in life many of us choose just to get by … do a ho-hum job or put forth just enough effort to meet minimum expectations. There’s no future in that. Opting for mediocrity is a sure-fire way not to stand out, not to be singled out for a special achievement, not to exceed. This time of year your teenagers may be looking for a summer job, serving as a camp counselor, perhaps preparing for college in the fall. Emphasize to them that in pursuit of a new life challenge leading toward adulthood, if they put forth their best effort and reach beyond their grasp, they will never be considered just mediocre.

Expect it and you’ll get it

Mediocre. Ugh. Even the word sounds average, less than desirable. Have you ever watched a mediocre show, eaten a mediocre hamburger, received mediocre service? If you have, hopefully it took only one lousy experience for you to look at other options. Mediocre quality and service exist only when we expect nothing better—when we don’t demand excellence.

Dad and Mom, your expectations of your children should be reasonable but also remain high. And your children’s expectations of themselves should reflect those same high standards. If your son or daughter is approaching a milestone in his or her life—college, a new job, the start of a career, a position of leadership, a business venture, a promising new relationship—it is important to make clear that quality stands out in the choices they make, the effort they put forth and the ultimate outcome. If your teenager settles for mediocrity—just does enough to slide by—it will stick like glue.

It’s everywhere!

This is difficult because mediocrity surrounds us. Too often we remain complacent or unmoved by it. The mediocre teacher or professor reads from the same yellowed notes year after year. The committee meets, hardly anyone attends and nothing ever gets done. Let’s face it. It’s quite human to shrug off mediocrity because to improve or change something is too much hassle and will create a fuss or hurt someone’s feelings. We think, nobody cares so why should I?

Kick it out of the house, under the bus

Dad, Mom, don’t accept mediocrity from yourselves or your teenagers. When we take life simply as it is dispensed to us—when we are satisfied with ho-hum people, products and service—we endorse it. Mediocrity thrives and becomes the norm. Dad, can you imagine a worse epitaph than “He lived a mediocre life”?

Expect excellence. Model it for your kids. Set high standards and take aim at them in everything you do as an individual and as a family. When you demand excellence from yourself and refuse to settle for less, your teenager will follow your example. Face it, our kids have a lot of examples out there, and they run the spectrum from good to OMG. Parents need to be the gold standard.

Reject mediocrity. Strive for excellence. Live it. Give it. Expect it from others.

By dads2dads