Our world is a confusing place for kids. Nearly every day, our sons and daughters are confronted by some form of bullying, disrespect and a complete disregard for authority. These conflicting elements create an environment that makes it tough for teens to be kind. It’s hard to be gentle and meek when you’re constantly fighting against cultural trends and peer pressure.
If you’re like me, you can still remember bad stuff that happened from your teen years. I was bullied by a group of guys, and whenever the projector of my memory rolls the film on those ugly encounters, I still get emotionally wrapped up with anger.
As a parent, you might be the only authority in your child’s life to model how to engage in kindness.
People in today’s society respond differently to failure than people have in previous generations. One reason is because we have greater access to information now than ever before. Technological advancement can be a good thing, but in this regard, it tends to be used for bad things. When someone fails, whether that’s a friend, a politician, an actor, or someone else, failure is instantaneously broadcasted over the World Wide Web. Any misstep, miscue, or hiccup can go viral in just a matter of seconds. Facebook alone allows for one negative comment to be shared with pretty much everyone in your social circle. This can be devastating for teens, and can cause them to lash out in a similar manner.
The benefit of these methods of communication, though, is that the same can happen with positive comments. As parents, we have the power to teach our teens how to show kindness in all of their interactions – both online and in person. The best place to start with this is in our home. Mom, dad, are you treating one another with love and respect? How are you showing kindness to the neighbours and others in your community? How are you treating your kids when they come home from school?
When your teen comes home from school and lashes out at you, it’s generally not disrespect. It’s spillover from their awful day because our kids don’t have a coping mechanism for what they experience at school. When they show frustration, the best way to respond is with respect. Instead of shooting them down and correcting their actions, ask them to put words to their feelings. The biggest mistake we can make as a parent is to somehow telegraph to our teen some form of shame for the way they feel. We cannot change their feelings. Feelings are feelings.