They say it takes a village to raise a child and I am finding that statement to be accurate as I raise my own children. If you think back to your teenage years who were the grown-ups in your life who mattered most to you? And who most impacted you? It could be a coach, a teacher, or a family member. What do all those people have in common? Most likely they intentionally sacrificed for your benefit. They made it clear they were there for you. They were the ones pushing you to do things that you doubted you could.
Growing up can be tough. As children’s bodies and brains are changing rapidly, they’re also dealing with new ideas and influences that will shape who they become. Parents, teachers and other caring adults work hard to teach kids how to become knowledgeable and responsible citizens. As a parent or caring adult it is sometimes hard to know what it is that a child needs.
Josh Shipp is the author of The Grown-Up’s Guide to Teenage Humans: How to Decode Their Behavior, Develop Trust, and Raise a Respectable Adult. We have him scheduled to train our employees this fall. The main idea of the book is to help adults understand teens and teens understand themselves. He outlines seven things every teen needs to hear. According to a recent study published in Science magazine, adults say about 16,215 words per day. Here are seven phrases – each one less than five words– that every teen need to hear from you, regardless of their age or stage.
I love you. This is crucial. Always be strong enough to say this to your kids. Grown adults have said they have never heard this from their parents. If your teen doesn’t hear it from you, I don’t know whom he or she will hear it from.
I’m proud of you. As parents or caring adults, it’s important we applaud effort more than achievement because achievement is often subjective to the group we are competing against. So applaud and reward effort over achievement and let your child know you’re proud of him or her.
I’m sorry. Taking responsibility as an adult is important for our kids to see. We have to model what it looks like to be an adult and apologize when we make mistakes. And don’t cop out by saying, “I’m sorry, but…!” Remember that kids learn a little bit from what we say, a little more from what we do, but the most from who we are.
I forgive you. It’s crucial for young people to know that if you want to succeed, you must be willing to fail. They are going to mess up, it happens. The question is always this: What will you do when they inevitably mess up? When you say, “I forgive you,” kids know it’s okay to admit mistakes.
I’m listening. Once your child is a preteen or teen, the name of the game isn’t about control-it’s about influence. You can’t control a fifteen-year-old, but you can influence him or her by listening and asking questions. Lecturing doesn’t work as well as asking strategic questions and then listening; doing that will help teens come to their own mature decisions and beliefs about situations.
This is your responsibility. Don’t bail your kids out of problems they can solve. Instead, remain like a coach: prepare them before the game, cheer from the sidelines, and then review what went well and what went badly (also from the sidelines). If you fix it for them, they’ll interpret that to mean that they don’t have what it takes. Instead, be there for moral support and guidance, but let them take responsibility.
You’ve got what it takes. It’s important for them to hear from you that they have what it takes. If they know you believe in them, they’re better prepared to take baby steps to accomplishing their goals and dreams and facing those difficult situations.
Children are truly craving someone to be interested in them, to care for them, to be there for them, and to focus their time and attention on them. By using these phrases with our kids they will start to find meaning and purpose in their life and it will contribute to their overall happiness.
Josh Shipp’s motto is ‘Every Kid is One Caring Adult Away from being a Success Story!’ He says in his book, “being a parent is often a thankless job. Nobody hands out awards to good parents. You won’t be mentioned during the state of union address. There won’t be a lifetime achievement award given to you at the Academy Awards. But even when your teens confusing signals say otherwise, your voice is the single most important voice in their lives. And those moments when they’re honest with themselves, your teens instinctively know that they need your voice. Your voice is needed and crucial and matters more than you know.”
I do believe it does take a village to raise a child. As a parent, teacher, coach, or other caring adult we have the ability to be a child’s one caring adult. I also believe that having the right tools and knowledge is essential to helping our children find success in their lives.