Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 18, 2005
Prepare your teens to be adults
Raise your children with conscience, virtue, says U.S. consultant
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Lac Ste. Anne
Whatever you do, never tell your children their high school years are the best years of their lives, advises an American educational consultant.
Chances are, the teenagers are experiencing emotions and encountering situations totally foreign to them. They are only beginning to discover how rich and rewarding their lives can become.
"In some ways, the teenaged years are the toughest time of life," said James Stenson, a noted author and speaker from Massachusetts.
"Hormones are out of control. Teens slip and slide on learning curves. They are socially awkward, doing many things for the first time," Stenson said.
"I have talked to many teens telling them if they think they are having a good time now, just wait for the rest of life that is coming."
Stenson was a keynote speaker during the 10th annual Family Life Conference June 30-July 3 at Lac Ste. Anne. More than 2,000 people attended the event.
Preparing Adolescents for Young Adulthood was Stenson's third talk of the conference about family life. He said parents succeed with their children when the kids grow up to become competent, responsible, considerate and generous men and women who are committed to live by principles of integrity.
Are children living their parents' principles, knowing the difference between right and wrong? Are they living in God-centred relationships? Do they enjoy their work and are they living to help others?
"The single strategic purpose of parenthood is to raise adults, not kids. And it may take 20 to 25 years before parents know they were successful," he said.
"I think the secret in dealing with adolescence is to approach it without a sense of fear. We survived it. It is a time with a lot of emotion, with its ups and downs. I think teens have gotten bad press because in many cases, people who write about teenagers have themselves raised their kids to be spoiled brats: And those kids associate with other brats, and the writers generalize about that," Stenson said to a round of applause.
"But if you raise your children with conscience and virtue, you might eliminate that time with them."
It is not true that all teenagers are rebels. But they do as a majority, want to stand on their own feet and exert their independence. Try to see life from their point of view, Stenson suggested.
"Nobody is fully independent. They are moving from dependence to being interdependent.
"Teens want to start writing their own lives. And that is absolutely normal. In fact, you might be in trouble if it does not start to happen."
Throughout history until the mid-20th century, adolescence had largely been ignored, Stenson said. Boys were apprenticed to work or were prepared for war. Girls, as soon as they had the power to give life, were married.
"Back then, adolescence must have lasted a month, at best," Stenson joked.
"Watching girls blossom is a wonderful thing. And boys begin to have lower voices and no longer look like their sisters. We need a lot of patience with teenagers. It is a time not to be afraid, but to be grateful that God has brought them up in your families and they have a great life ahead of them."
Consider them adults
Consider them to be adults who have everything, except experience. Teens need to learn some savvy in the market place, in the work force. They need to learn how to deal with other people. Parents need to pass on wisdom of adulthood and about family life, he said.
Stenson has heard many parents complain their children never listen to them. He says this is an incorrect assessment.
"I assure them that is not true. Teens take in everything their parents tell them. They don't miss a thing, but they don't want to show it. They just want time to think it over and adapt it on their own."
Eventually, teens become young adults realizing their parents were right. They will do the right thing without being told. Adults grow, but teens change, Stenson said.
If a teen is in trouble, it is usually from poor judgment and not out of malice or rage. Parents should try to be fair and reasonable.
"Attitude is everything. When we see life as a gift, we are grateful to God for that gift. And you will live life to the fullest," he said. "Kids do not grow up when they can take care of themselves. They grow up when they can take care of others, and want to."
He suggested fathers talk with their daughters. When she begins to consider personal relationships, have her look at how the man she is interested in treats his own family. Does he talk about his family and if so, how does he describe it?
"If you want to see the family he will form, see how he treats the family he is from," Stenson said.
Fathers might tell their daughters to dress modestly because men will then be attracted to her face.
"They will look into her eyes and see her smile. He will see her self-respect. These are things men fall in love with. And as they age as a couple, a man can look into his wife's face and see the same beautiful eyes he fell in love with."
He told the crowd that no one is ever too old to thank his or her parents, even if they are in heaven.
"Now that you are a parent, you realize how much they loved you and sacrificed for you," Stenson said. "When your children leave home, going out into the world and they turn and say thank you for everything, that is when you know you have finally won."
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