Traveling New Roads Together

Traveling New Roads Together

Last month, I had the pleasure of training a group of college students preparing to be camp counselors. My main purpose in the training was to equip them to support kids from hard places. Many of the camps they would be doing would take them into areas of the city where behavioral issues and lack of family support would be likely prevalent.

During the Q&A session at the end, questions kept coming up about how they should handle discipline. One counselor asked, “Can we make the kids do pushups if they are misbehaving or late?”. This is a common form of discipline within sports or camps, and I have never liked it. Personally, I think it can be pretty degrading to a kid to give penance in the form of a pushup – but despite how much I despise the approach, I answered – “Yes.”

But I had a caveat.

“As long as you do the pushups with them.”

The group laughed, but the point was taken. When you make kids do pushups for misbehaving, is any connection made? Or are we further cementing our authority and power? However, when we do pushups with the kids, connection is created and there is some sense of shared responsibility.

Because if the kids are constantly misbehaving or late – does the fault completely lay on their shoulders? Or is it a power play for the adult to dish out the discipline without also taking some of the blame? 

As helpers of students, we often forget the power of vulnerability and connection when it comes to how we correct. It is much easier to point out the mistakes with our kids. It’s much harder to admit our culpability.

This concept rang true to me as I read through a recent study on teenagers and cell phone use commissioned by Common Sense Media. The main takeaway of the study showed that 1 in 3 teenagers take their cell phones to bed and report checking their phones multiple times overnight.

Simply put, this is a horrifying trend. Numerous studies have confirmed the “blue light” emitted by screens should be eliminated at least 30 minutes before bed, and cell phone be removed from the bedroom for any chance of quality sleep. Why on earth would teenagers do this to themselves?

Well, because we do. The same study reports 61% of adults check their phone within 30 minutes of going to bed. Simply put – we adults have developed some nasty habits with our devices and our kids are watching.

An interesting thought that came out of the same study showed the number of teenagers who think their parents are spending way too much time on the phone went up by 11%. But teenagers own assessment of how much time they spent on devices was more muted. While they thought their parents spend way too much time on the phone, they felt like their time was just about right.

This study highlighted how teenagers can develop really unhealthy habits and suffer loss of sleep and health as a result. As an adult it would be easy to just tell a student to not take their phone to bed. If so, prepare for a fight.

It’s like this in so many aspects of our parenting and mentoring of students. We are quick to point out their issues and tell them where they should change, but even with the lightest of scrutiny, we as adults aren’t doing much better. 

This isn’t just about cell phones and sleep. It’s how we deal with our stress. It’s how we self-medicate. It’s about our anger. It’s our discontent. Do we not realize our kids are watching us, even if they seem aloof?

This offers opportunity for connection. For example, if you know your teenager is taking their phone to bed, you likely are as well. Instead of laying down the law, why not share your own struggle and create a plan to deal with it together?

Or maybe you struggle with anger or outbursts. Maybe acknowledge that with your kid? Apologize? Even ask for help?

When we choose connection with our teenagers, we build relationship. It’s the harder road, but it is one that acknowledges our humanity as well as respects where our teenager is developmentally. 

We cannot ask our teenagers to travel roads we do not presently travel. By choosing vulnerability and connection, we choose to travel those roads together.

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.

Who Are Your People?

Who Are Your People?

A couple of weeks ago, we had a huge problem. My son, Sawyer, was refusing to go to sleep at night. Overnight, he went from going to bed in minutes to standing up in his crib, screaming unless he was being held. Until this time, we have been spoiled by his sleeping habits, so when they suddenly changed, I was desperate.

After a couple of nights of rocking him every 15 minutes and then eventually crawling in his crib until he fell asleep, I asked for help. I asked good friends, my mom, and even put it out on Instagram to get the advice and wisdom from my fellow mom friends. This is not something I often do, but after all the great wisdom I got, I wondered, “Why don’t I usually ask for advice or help?”

We encourage teenagers to seek wise counsel, find adults they can trust, and surround themselves with peers who will make them better. Why do we do this? Because we know that they are going to face tough circumstances, and we don’t want them to be alone.

But how often do we follow this advice ourselves? Other than your spouse or very best friend, how often do you share trials, struggles and doubts with the people in your circle?

Lately, there has been a call for people to be more authentic on social media. It is easy for me to post pictures on vacation or of Sawyer when he is smiling, clean, and happy. It is difficult to post images of a dirty house, a home cooked meal that ended up being just okay, or cranky baby. Whether on social media or in real life, it is often difficult for us to admit that we don’t have it all together. We don’t have all the answers. Our lives aren’t always perfect, posed, and picture worthy.

We are wrong.

You need people to talk to and do life with, just like your teenager.

Now, I understand the older we get, the trickier it is to share information about our spouse, kids, or job. Please understand that I am not asking you to break trust or find a group of friends to gossip with. I am simply encouraging you to find a community that you trust and that will give advice to better yourself and your family.

Sometimes this will mean having a friend to call after a long day of work to remind you why you love your job. Other times it might be someone ahead of you in life who will give advice and counsel because they have been through it already. It also may mean having that person who will call you out when you are wrong – who will tell you stay with your spouse when it’s hard or apologize to your kids when you overreacted.

Your people will look different from my people, but here are a few qualities to look for:

  • Find someone who you admire. Maybe you love the way they parent, or they have a way of finding joy in every situation. Talk to the people you want to be like, they will make you better.
  • Find someone older than you. Peers are great, but talk to others who aren’t in “the weeds” anymore. Talk to someone who has been through something similar but made it to the other side.
  • Find someone who is encouraging. When life is hard, sometimes you just need someone to cheer you on! Find the people who will show up at the big and small events. Who will celebrate every victory with you.
  • Find someone who is honest. This one is hard. I like people who agree with me. But I need people who will love me enough to tell me when I am wrong or when I should be doing something different. Find someone you trust who you know will always be honest with you.
  • Find someone who loves your family. My favorite people to talk to are the ones who know where I am coming from. The people who gave me good advice on Instagram did so because they love my son and want what is best for him. Seek people who love your marriage and your kids, not just you.

 

Who are these people in your life? Do you see the value in seeking community as adults? Let us know what you think!

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Marketing & Development Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Pay Attention: You are Being Watched!

Pay Attention: You are Being Watched!

It’s kind of creepy to think about, but you are being watched. And while many are in denial about this fact, it is true and we need to find a way to believe it, accept it, and act accordingly.

To tell you what I mean, let me back up a few weeks. I had gotten on one of my famous, yet short-lived, health kicks and decided I would get back in shape. One of the ways that has worked the best for me is by doing the “Insanity” workout videos. They are a whooping, but I’ve not found anything that works better for me. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would come home for lunch to do the workout, and typically my family was there as well since my wife is off on those days.

My five year old started watching me do my “workouts” and asked if he could join in. I told him he could do the exercises, but to be careful and not overdo it.

That’s when I felt really old and out of shape. My five year old started in on these exercises and killed it. He was doing the jumping jacks, up/downs, pushups, and mountain climbers with ease while I was trying to save my breath to live another day.

But I noticed something as he joined me in my workouts. Every time I stopped to take a break, he would do the same. This was especially the case as we both got more tired. And the thing was, I could have kept pushing, but I chose to stop. So, he did as well.

This might be a simple observation, but it has stuck in my head. What I do, my kid does. When I get mad and yell, it tells him he is okay to do it as well. When I don’t eat healthy, he will go for the candy. When I watch too much TV, he will do the same.

Its this really simple idea that so many adults need to understand. Our kids watch us, no matter the age. I still watch my parents and follow their lead as a 37-year-old. And if you have a teenager in your life, I assure you they are watching you and acting accordingly.

The old line “do as I say, not as I do” is a load of garbage – and we know it. Those of us who work with teenagers or children need to understand our crucial role in leading and caring for the younger generation.

As a child becomes a teenager, they will likely take your counsel less and less and depend more on what they see from you. Here are some of the things I think teenagers watch for from their parents and mentors:

  • How they deal with adversity
  • How they treat those who they deem “lower than themselves”
  • How they handle themselves on social media
  • How they interact with and use technology
  • What they spend their time doing
  • How they talk about people in authority (teachers, coaches, political leaders, law enforcement)
  • How they treat their friends
  • And, pretty much everything else I didn’t mention

 

To my adult friends who are reading this, take your role seriously. You are leading and influencing, even if you don’t think you are a leader or influencer. You can make more of a difference now by remembering who is watching you, and living up to that expectation.

What do you think about this? How have you seen this reality play out in your relationships with teenagers?

 

Chris Robey, Program Director, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.