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Hard Times Help Prepare Teens for the Road Ahead

Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher, once said, “Out of life’s school…what does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” I recently heard someone talking about school and how hard it is for so many students, and I thought of this quote. It made me somewhat philosophical myself. Generally, I write about specific problems in this blog, but today I “wax philosophical” (as my father used to say).

When I was little, I thought that someday I would know what to do when problems arose. I wished I could grow up faster, so life would not be so hard. Then I grew up. To my surprise, I find myself not always knowing what to do! I tell students this all the time—mostly when trying to help them understand their parents. (Parents are completely unreasonable and place impossible demands on children.) My answer always starts with, “Your parents love you so much. They are doing the best they can to help you grow up to be a successful adult. I will tell you a secret—grown-ups don’t always know the best way to do things. They just do the best they can.” I follow that with the story of myself as a child thinking that when I grew up I would always know what to do. I encourage them to have a heart-to-heart talk with their parents, too.

When talking with parents about their adolescent child, I tell them that teens are seeking independence from them. Many of their decisions are in response to what they feel are unreasonable requests. I usually advise that together we search for what will help their child decide for himself he wants to do better in school. And then I advise them to have an open and honest talk with their child.

Adolescence is difficult, but it’s also tremendously fun. When I walk down the hall at school and hear students talking with one another, I always wind up smiling (or laughing out loud). I encourage you to stop and think about the best parts of life with your kids. And remember that the tough parts are there to make us stronger. We have to experience failure, learn to argue and resolve differences, become internally motivated, and begin caring about others more than ourselves. This is tough and sometimes miserable. But it is important and what adolescence is all about.

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