By John Gardner
1. Good Teens thrive BECAUSE of their parents
For one group, I give much credit to good parenting. These are the parents who are active and involved in their teen’s life. They’re on the PTO, in the band/choir/athletic booster groups, they come to watch practices, performances or games, they volunteer to help and they put up the money that most worth while ventures require. Some, are more behind the scenes supporting, enabling and encouraging. Outside of school activities, the family is together a lot. Maybe there isn’t a lot of money for fancy vacations, but they find ways to do things together anyway. Single parents and those who have remarried can also do fantastic jobs. My heart goes out to those super parents who are experiencing what author James Dobson calls “the strong-willed child”.
Keep the faith and keep doing what you’re doing. The teen will figure it out eventually.
2. Good Teens thrive IN SPITE of their parents
A second group, and one that I especially admire, are those teens who turn out great “in spite of” their parents. These are the teens who“ have every reason (mostly by example) to crash and burn, and yet, they determine NOT to follow the paths of their parents and instead, commit themselves to a better life.
I’m not faulting single, lower-income, laid off or otherwise challenged parents doing the best they can. My parents divorced when I (oldest of 5) was in 7th grade. My mother was a polio-survivor without a car. We didn’t have it easy but we had love and support — and we all survived.
I DO fault those who could, but don’t share or support the child’s enthusiasm for a worthy activity.
Your child knows, is hurt, embarrassed and deflated by your lack of support.
A high school clarinet student once tell me,
“My dad has never heard me play.”
You will only have that child in your care for a short time.
I was outside our band entrance door greeting students arriving for rehearsal. The car stopped and both student and parent got out. The girl ran to me, in tears, frantically exclaiming, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” before running into the building. Behind her came the papa with the band schedule in hand. There was no warm, fuzzy response to my “Hi, how ya doin’?” Instead, he almost slapped me in the face with the schedule as he grunted, “How much of this schedule is mandatory?” After my response, “All of it.”, he mumbled something I wouldn’t print even if I heard it clearly. The daughter was waiting for me in the office, still crying, and apologizing for what she was sure I had endured. My respect and admiration for her attitude and work ethic skyrocketed after that.
A sophomore asked me for some personal clarinet coaching. Things were going great until she came in one day tearfully explaining she had to quit. She had gotten a job to pay for her lessons, because her parents would not, and when they learned how she was spending her earnings, they started charging her rent.
I continued her lessons anyway.
Another student came in from the parking lot to ask for some help with a flat tire. He called his mother while the other director and I taught him how to change a tire. To get to the spare, he had to unhook the huge woofer in the trunk. The mother and boyfriend arrived and, instead of thanking us for staying or trying to help, boyfriend starts screaming at the teen, “How dare you let somebody else touch my car. This isn’t over, kid.”
These are the students we find walking home after the concert, football game, or competition — because they know their parents will not come pick them up. Some get their own jobs to raise their own money to pay the participation fees, even earning money to go on the Disney trip.
3. Good Teens thrive because of who they are
Some teens naturally have what it takes for greatness. Natural greatness combined with good parenting is definitely a winning combination.
Thanks for reading.