Motivating Teens Toward Greatness

Motivating Teens Toward Greatness


By Richard (Dick) Innes

“I reared a Criminal” was the title of an article that appeared in The Ladies’ Home Journal. It was the true story of a heart-broken mother who said: “We loved him, but:

“His father was too busy to be with him when he was young.

“I couldn’t bring myself to punish him for misbehavior.

“We sided against teachers when they complained about his work and conduct in school.

“As he grew up, he would hardly discuss the time of day with us.

“He was expelled from school.

“We gave him money so he wouldn’t steal again.

“I wept when the police called and I had to turn my boy over to them. As I watched them search him, my life seemed to end.”
In North America a traffic accident involving an intoxicated teenagers will take place every fifteen seconds. Suicide is the next highest cause of death among teens. The same problems also affect the rest of the Western world.

Why do some young people destroy their lives, why do others remain mediocre, and why do others succeed or become great?
And young people can be great. For instance, Victor Hugo wrote one of his tragedies at the age of fifteen. Pascal wrote a great work at sixteen. Raphael painted his wonderful works as a young man. Tennyson wrote his first volume at eighteen. Joan of Arc did all her work before being burned at the stake at nineteen.

Romulus founded Rome at twenty. Alexander the Great had conquered the world by the time he was twenty-three. Isaac Newton was only twenty–four when he formulated the Law of Gravity. McCormick invented the reaper when he was twenty-three, and Charles Dickens wrote his Pickwick Papers at twenty-four and Oliver Twist at twenty-five.

I wept when the police called and
I had to turn my boy over to them.
As I watched them search him
my life seemed to end.”

How can we as adults and parents motivate more of our younger generation toward greatness?

Touch them with love. Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a letter from an anguished Sunday school teacher appeared in a Dallas newspaper. The teacher told of having a boy in his class whom he never reached with the Christian message. His name? Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who later shot John Kennedy.

Five years later another Sunday school teacher in Pasadena, California, grieved over what might have happened to one of his dropouts. A twelve-year-old dark-skinned boy came to his class two or three times, then stopped. The teacher never bothered to call on him or invite him back. This boy’s name? Sirhan Sirhan, the man who later killed Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Train them in self reliance. A recent university study shows that the happiest and best-adjusted young people and adults are those who believe they have a good measure of control over their own lives.

This is why, from infancy, I tried to teach our two boys that they can make of their lives and do with them exactly what they want, providing they want to badly enough and are willing to study and work hard enough for it.

To attain emotional maturity,” writes Aaron Stern in his book, Me: The Narcissistic American, each of us must learn to develop two critical capacities: the ability to live with uncertainty and the ability to delay immediate gratification in favor of long–range goals.

“Adolescence is a time of maximum resistance to further growth. It is a time characterized by the teenager’s ingenious efforts to maintain the privileges of childhood, while at the same time demanding the rights of adulthood. It is a point beyond which most human beings do not pass emotionally. The more we do for our children, the less they can do for themselves. The dependent child of today is destined to become the dependent parent of tomorrow.”

Teach them responsibility. Responsibility is a mark of maturity. It needs teaching from earliest childhood.

Internationally known authority on personal development, Denis Waitley, in his best-selling book, Seeds of Greatness, gives ten action steps for teaching responsibility. Briefly, they are as follows:

  1. As soon as children are old enough, they need to put away their own toys, eating materials and clothes. They need to be taught to make their own beds, clean up their own rooms and their own messes, and not be paid for it.
  2. Every family member needs to be given chores that are attended to on definite days and times. Payment can be in positive strokes, allowances or special privileges.
  3. Television needs to be disciplined in the amount of time spent watching each day. Programs need to be selected according to their value, and other forms of recreation need to be initiated. Too much television makes people passive onlookers and not participators in life. Constant watching also unconsciously formulates unrealistic values of life that people come to accept as normal.
  4. As long as teens are living at home, it is the responsibility of the parents to know where they are, who they are with, and basically what they are doing. Friends need to be welcome at home. And when rules are broken, discuss with the teens what they feel the discipline should be.
  5. Don’t buy your children a car. If you should stand as guarantor for them, make sure they have earned and saved the deposit first, and ensure that they make their own car payments and insurance. 

Teach your children and teens that
life is a do-it-yourself project.”

If there is any evidence of any use of alcohol or drugs connected with your teens or young adults’ use of a car, automatically take action for a three- to six-month period.

  1. Teach your children and teens that life is a do-it-yourself project. Help your children to solve their own problems; don’t do it for them. Train them to make their own decisions and to accept responsibility for the outcome.
  2. Never preach what you don’t practice. If you don’t want your children to smoke pot, don’t smoke cigarettes. According to one authority, no child ever smoked pot without having first smoked cigarettes. And if you don’t want your children to drink while they drive, be careful what you drink yourself and when.
  3. Become a role model for those you wish to influence.
  4. Let your children make mistakes without fear of punishment and rejection.
  5. Never make excuses for anything. Always accept the responsibility for your own actions, and if a commitment can’t be kept, call immediately, giving the reason.

Finally, trust your children to God. Denis Waitley also points out that according to the most recent studies, there are three cornerstones in the lives of teens and young adults who do not use drugs of any kind: a strong religious belief, healthy family and extended-family relationships, and high self-esteem. Therefore, and above all, commit your own life to God, put Him first in everything you do, take your family to church every Sunday, and daily commit and trust your life and way, and that of your children, to God.


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