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.