We must invest into our teenagers, they are our future.” This is a phrase that I have heard countless times over the years at churches, schools, places of employment, and government. Likely, you have heard it used as well. But personally, I’ve never really liked it.
The problem is not that the statement is wrong… teenagers really are the future leaders of our organizations. The problem with the statement is that it’s incomplete. Teenagers are our future, but they are also our present. And the view that only sees their value in the future is short-sighted.
When we shift our thinking from “what could teenagers accomplish in the future” to “what do they offer in the present,” we begin to look at them in a very different light.
- We begin to expect significant contribution from them.
- We begin to recognize what life lessons/skills we can learn from them.
- We readily hand over significant responsibilities to them.
- We begin to dream “with” them, not just “for” them.
Advertisers understand this truth. Studies reveal young people view nearly 50,000 advertisements per year on television alone and increasingly are being exposed to advertising through other mediums (magazines, Internet, even our schools).
Marketers understand the importance of this age. And they invest significant resources communicating how much they value their resources and their financial contribution to the world today and in the future.
As parents, we need to do the same. We need to value our children and the contributions they offer today. Our world would become a far better place if we did.
To get started:
Remind them how important they are to the world today.
Use fewer words that communicate “you will be important in the future” and use more words that communicate “you can be important today.”
Encourage them to discover their giftedness.
We all have natural talents, gifts, and abilities that make us unique and set us apart from everyone else. And in many ways, life is a journey of discovering our gifts and investing into them. Give your children a head-start by starting them on that journey as soon as possible.
Support their idealism.
Teenagers embrace idealism. They believe they can change the world and desire to find an outlet with which they can accomplish that purpose. Don’t discourage them by pointing out reasons they can’t change the world. Instead, set them loose. And see what they can accomplish.
Provide the resources they need to chase their contribution.
You will want to be prepared. If you tell your teenager they can make a difference, help them discover their giftedness, and then support them in their idealism, you’ll likely need to be ready to resource them when they step out to accomplish those dreams. At that time, resource them effectively. Money may be necessary. But likely, an engaged intentionality will be far more valuable to them.
Our world does not need another individual blindly following the crowd… now or in the future. Instead, we need revolutionaries who are prepared to live life differently. The world is changed by those who think radical ideas and dream big dreams. Encourage your child to seek out individuality.
We miss out on a beautiful opportunity when we fail to realize the potential for impact held deep within our teenagers. Teenagers are our future, no doubt. But they are also our present. And we need to treat them as such.