The Greatest Gifts We Can Give a Teenager

Guest post by Dennis Trittin 

back view of graduate student girl hug future

The teen years are among our greatest periods of change and self discovery. When you know who you are and why you’re here, you’re inspired to define and pursue your passions. Knowing “what makes you tick” and being able to carry that out, brings great joy and fulfillment. Unfortunately, for some, that’s easier said than done.

Take teenagers who receive few expressions of love or healthy modeling in the home. It doesn’t take long for that deficit to show up in their academics, motivation, relationships, and demeanor. In acts of sheer desperation, they search for love and false comforts in all the wrong places and check out of school. It’s a tragic cycle that has become all too common, with one unhappy ending after another.

During the past year, I’ve had many opportunities to speak with teens and young adults who are, in one form or another, facing a crisis of relevance. They see school as irrelevant, and worse yet, they see themselves as irrelevant. Some of their questions are:

“What am I worth when my parents never tell me they love me?”
“What’s the point of staying in school? I’ll never use this stuff anyway.”
“What can I do to convince my parents to let me live my dream?”
“I’m not that smart and my family has no money. Can I still become a leader?”
“All my parents care about is my performance…not me. How am I supposed to deal with that?
These conversations are heart wrenching. But, interestingly, it’s these kids who often most engaged in my talks on leadership! They ask the most questions and ask to share in private. They’re the ones asking questions and opening up after my speaking engagements. They’re desperately searching—for hope, relevance, and worth—even though it may not appear that way on the surface.

We’ve got to give it to them. All of them! Until young people see the relevance and value of their own lives, there’s simply no way they’ll reach their full potential.

Here are some ways adults can help:

Recognize that no one (especially a young person) has a complete and accurate perspective on all he or she has to offer—whether character qualities or skills. They need the perspectives of others who can offer additional insights about their value and opportunities.

Parents can ensure their children understand their uniqueness and value, and avoid showing favoritism through words or attention. They can value the person more than the performance. Educators can offer opportunities for skills/aptitude assessments and programs where friends, relatives, and mentors honor each student with expressions of value. For example, some innovative schools hold special retreats where students receive letters collected from important people in their lives—life changing keepsake experiences. Look for opportunities to “speak life” into young people and encourage them to do the same. Remember, relevance breeds hope, and hope breeds motivation and direction. Motivation and direction help uncover passion and purpose. Passion and purpose help fulfill potential.

These are vital gifts to give the young people in your life. Give generously.

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A Taste of Washington

InnatBlackberryCreek

 

A few thoughts from my husband highlighting our summer taste and travel adventures in our own home state of Washington this summer …

Doug Lawrence Real Estate

2014 may possibly go down as the busiest year ever in the Lawrence household. It began with a Seahawks SuperBowl victory and celebration, and included a wedding, a move, and a back injury (all in the same month). And it seems like a steady flow of guests ever since. After all that, Arlyn and I did carve out some time to explore some of our own beautiful State of Washington. We explored the Yakima Valley and the gorgeous hidden jewel that is Walla Walla and all the sites and tastings that the east side of our state had to offer.

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A nice meal in downtown Walla Walla, WA (which is on Fodor’s List of the 10 Best Small Towns in America)

We toured the Westside’s urban landmarks with our amazing British friends and we explored the pebbled shore of the Dungeness Spit in the wind and rain.

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We also took delight…

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Family Togetherness

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If you were to ask either Doug or me what has been the single biggest blessing in our lives, I think we both would unanimously and enthusiastically reply, “Our kids!”

Being the parents of five children has been … shall we say … an active existence. If you had asked me back when they were small what “family togetherness” looks like I would have said, “Crazy!” These days, I get asked all the time, “How did you do it, raising all those kids?” Frankly, I’m not quite sure! I certainly don’t have the energy today that I did back then. (I’m sure glad we started as young as we did. Funny how your energy fades as you age. The spirit may be willing, but the body, well …)

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Our brood in autumn of 1997. 

I’m grateful that our now (mostly) grown kids have become such great friends of ours and of each other. They are all starting to move out in their own directions in life: college, careers, travel, marriage, starting families, etc.  But despite distance and schedules, staying connected to one another is still a high priority to all of us.

Families are incredibly important for a number of reasons, no matter how old you are (and don’t let your teens try to persuade you otherwise). For one, the security and support that come from being in a healthy, loving family are a foundational part of God’s design for humans. We need each other! We need the belonging and community. We need the opportunities to practice patience, kindness, and generosity. We need the “iron sharpening iron” effect of learning to live in harmony with (other) imperfect humans. There’s no better place to learn these graces than in a family.

Our family has always found that a great way to maintain family togetherness is to play together—to hang out, have fun, and do things we enjoy in each other’s company. That was a lot easier when everyone lived with Mom and Dad. Nowadays, since we aren’t all under the same roof anymore, we have to find new ways to cultivate family togetherness, like our annual Labor Day Family Get-Away where we rent a lodge in the mountains and the whole family “retreats” there for a long weekend of games, swimming, fishing, and food. Everyone has to take a turn preparing a meal, because cooking together is another great way to build family togetherness.

And guess what? It’s still crazy. 🙂

 

FamilytogethernessSome of the crew hot tubbin’ during our annual Labor Day Family Get-Away.

New Book Launch – “PULSE: Understanding the Vital Signs of Your Business”

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I’m excited to announce the publication of Pulse: Understanding the Vital Signs of Your Business by Frank Coker, a project on which I was delighted to serve as developmental editor.

If you own–or know someone who owns–a business, I hope you’ll order a copy right away. Pulse is full of practical and useful techniques for running a business by the numbers based on “predictive analytics.” I, being a “word person,” personally knew next to nothing about predictive analytics before signing on to work with Frank on this book.  But boy, did I learn a lot and I’m so glad I did.

Frank Coker offers the unique perspective of serving as both a faculty business professor at the University of Washington iSchool and CEO of Corelytics (a financial software company). Under his leadership, Corelytics has been recognized as a Top 25 Emerging Vendor and won Intuit’s Grand Prize App of the Year. In Pulse, “Professor Frank’s” easygoing informative style makes easily understandable the important concepts that need to be mastered by  business leaders and entrepreneurs who are not experts in financial analytics, and who want to build teams that have a clear picture of where they are headed.

With over 30 expert contributors, Pulse covers an array of topics ranging from Effective Analysis and what your numbers are telling you, Diagnosis, Symptoms vs. Problems, Metrics that Matter Most, Strategic Cash Management, and Activating Your Team. This book is a great practical guide to running a healthy business.

And since I am not only an editor but also a business owner, that’s important information I’m glad to have in my hip pocket. 🙂

FrankCongratulations to Frank Coker and his colleague Kris Fuehr, who was instrumental in the development of Pulse.  I wish you both every success!

 

Get your copy of Pulse: Understanding the Vital Signs of Your Business by ordering direct or on Amazon

 

Quotes and Endorsements for Pulse: Understanding the Vital Signs of Your Business

“Running a business is a LOT harder than most people think. Frank Coker offers the insights and framework for starting, growing, and sustaining a business with essential methods to manage metrics and analytics.”
-Mike Eisenberg, Ph.D., Dean Emeritus & Professor and academic entrepreneur,
University of Washington’s Information School

“Are your investments in people and assets really producing meaningful results? Supplying your value-based partners with real, measured insight as to how you are driving results together is priceless. This books shows you how to get there.”
–David Nour, Author, thought leader in Relationship Economics®

“Learning to read and interpret financial data is imperative to understanding a small business. But not just reciting the sums at the bottom of a balance sheet. This means fully understanding what these elements actually mean, what they are based on, and what they predict about the future.”
–Jeff Levy, Author, Making the Jump

“This brings complex business analytics to business owners who are not financial experts
in an easy-to-understand view of what is happening in their business .”
– Harry Bruce, Ph.D., Dean of the University of Washington Information School

After a Summer of Launching, a Long Overdue Vacation

If I said it’s been a busy summer, that would be the understatement of the year.  We’ve been “launching” pretty much non-stop since May, starting with a graduation …

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Hayley’s Graduation from WSU with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education

(L-R: Darian (Tim’s girlfriend), Tim, Hillary, Spencer (Hayley’s then-fiancee), Doug, Me, Tyler, and Lexi (Tyler’s wife)

Followed by a wedding …

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Hayley and Spencer, July 5th, 2014

And then a move to a new house just a week later!

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Moving Day, July 12th, 2014.  Yes, we must be crazy.

Then we sent Hillary off to the Bahamas on a Mission Trip with our church youth group:

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Leaving Seattle, August 4th, 2014

L-R: Nikki, Hillary, Dani Rose

And no sooner did we welcome Hillary home then it was time to launch Tim off, back to WSU for his sophomore year:

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Family Night to celebrate Hillary’s homecoming and Tim’s departure with BBQ and croquet, August 16th

     As the parents of five kids (very busy kids, I might add!), Doug and I think one the best things we can do for them is to not only prepare them for the launch, but also to provide a “landing pad.” They come and go, off to school and back, around the world and back, getting married and still coming home often for encouragement (or babysitting, or a home cooked meal from Mom!).

     The other important thing we realize we need to do as the parents of five busy kids is to take time for US!  Which is why, after a crazy busy summer of much launching and landing, we are doing a little launch of our own.  Mom and Dad are taking a vacation.  All by themselves.  Now fancy that. 🙂

SEE YA!

Summer Before the Launch: Tips for Parents of Graduates

Friends Carrying Cardboard Boxes In Front Of New House

Note: This article of mine was published on FoxNews.com.  

 

Graduation season is here and excitement is everywhere! Neighborhoods are being marked by balloons in school colors indicating “the party is here,” and each weekend in June streets are lined with the cars of well wishers making the rounds at open houses.

But what happens after the diplomas are handed out and the celebrations are done? Can parents breathe a well-deserved sigh of relief? Not so fast.

Many onlookers believe that most high school graduates are not fully prepared for “the real world.” A Google search on “preparing teens for graduation” would have us believe the focus should be on transcripts, GPAs, college admission requirements, work and community service experiences, and job applications. But with college graduation rates lagging and employers complaining how woefully underprepared young people are for the demands of the workplace, we have to question whether we’re missing the forest for the trees in preparing teens for adulthood.

It’s a time of high anxiety, for sure—both for parents and teens. Teens are experiencing the stress of losing their comfortable support systems, their friends are taking off in different directions, and they’re feeling the impending pressures and responsibilities of adulthood. Parents are asking questions like,” Have I taught them everything they need to know? Will they make good decisions? How will our relationship change? Are they ready for independence?” That’s a lot of stress—for everyone!

Realistically, parents can’t squeeze 18 years of “what might we have missed?” into the last six weeks before the launch. However, with some strategic effort, they can make vital last-minute deposits of wisdom and encouragement, and position their graduates for success in their new environments:

Destination Preparation:

  1. Talk with teens about the changes they will experience and some successful strategies for navigating them, particularly coping and relational skills.
  2. Help them plan ahead for ways to meet new people and reassure them that it takes time and trust to build new friendships. What are their “must haves” in a true friend? The most common derailer for young people after the launch is loneliness, whether they are on a college campus or living at home while their friends go off to college.
  3. Teach them time management and organization strategies. All too soon they’ll be managing their own schedules with loads of distractions. Equip them for this challenge.
  4. Point out that they’ll have to earn the right to be heard, respected, and granted privileges; they’re not “entitled” to any of that. Encourage them to apply their best efforts in every arena and be a standout in terms of character, teamwork, and work ethic.

Relationship Preparation:

  1. Build an enduring relationship that will transition from parent-child to adult-young adult. Carefully monitor your “relationship capital” with your teen. (Do you have a positive or negative balance in your “account?”) Time your delicate conversations strategically when they’re willingly engaged.
  2. Discuss communication expectations for after they leave home. If your young adult will be away at college, how often will you expect to hear from each other and under what circumstances? If he/she will still be living at home, what will be the new, more “adult” boundaries and expectations now that he/she is no longer a high school student? Being realistic and respectful on both sides is the key.
  3. Consider a weekly meeting at a coffee shop (neutral territory) to discuss the upcoming transition. Go through a book together that can help raise pertinent questions and guide your conversations, such as What I Wish I Knew at 18 by Dennis Trittin (LifeSmart Publishing). Third party voices are especially powerful at this time.

Transition Preparation:

  1. If you haven’t already, begin to incrementally release control by allowing more decision-making freedom and holding back on correcting, reminding, and overly “helping.” This is the time for you to move from driver to passenger seat in your teen’s life.
  2. Speak positively about your expectation of their success and your unwavering belief in them. Avoid too much talk of “losing my baby” or anticipating out loud the tremendous sense of loss you will feel; this can erode their confidence and lead to feelings of guilt over leaving home.
  3. Celebrate a rite of passage to mark the transition between childhood and adulthood, such as a simple ceremony, special gift, or letter of affirmation. We aren’t always good about this in American culture, but it can help tremendously in terms of empowering young adults and releasing them with blessing and confidence into the next season of their lives.

Importantly, seek to understand your graduate’s feelings about the impending changes he or she will be experiencing, often alternating between anticipation and apprehension. Don’t take it personally if they want to spend more time with friends before they head off to their destination. They may vacillate between wanting to cling to the last moments of childhood, and wanting to rush headlong into the “freedom” of adulthood.

Give them space either way. There will be plenty of opportunities for dialogue in “real time” as they encounter the pressures and responsibilities of adult life. This last summer at home, if navigated strategically, can pave the way for those future conversations as parents build a strong relational foundation with their young adult. That’s a win for everyone!

 

 

When Helping Is Hurting: What NOT to Do for Your Kids

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What parents don’t want their children to follow their dreams, land a solid job, have strong relationships and family, and enjoy a great life? We want them to be happy. We want them to be well-regarded by others. We want them to be successful.

But, here’s the rub. In a genuine effort to help our kids be happy and successful, there are some things we parents can do that are extremely counterproductive and actually work against our objectives.

Those who commonly work with young adults (e.g., teachers and administrators from high schools and universities, employers, etc.) report growing issues with this younger generation, four of which are particularly troubling: disrespect for authority, lack of social skills, apathy, and an entitlement mentality.  Guess where these particular issues generally originate–in the home! And, they are worsening, according to organizations receiving and trying to work with teens and young adults. The effects of media and culture aren’t helping either!

We can’t point the finger at anyone else on this one. It’s our job as parents to do our part and to help reverse this course, and the younger we can start with our kids, the better. From a parenting perspective, consider this scenario:

Say two-year old Joey is hungry.  Mom says, “Joey, do you want a banana or some grapes?” Joey doesn’t want a banana or grapes. Joey wants a mango. Mom tells Joey he needs to eat what is offered to him. He pitches a fit.  What does Mom do next?  She sends Dad out to the store to buy a mango.  Mom and Dad are happy because Joey’s happy.  Everybody’s happy, right? Wrong.

If this style of parenting continues throughout Joey’s life, as it does for many, what do you think Joey will grow up thinking?  How about:

–       he will always have choices

–       his happiness and satisfaction should be priorities to the people around him

–       he doesn’t have to comply with what he is told to do

–       Mom will always advocate for him to get his way and come out on top

–       other people are there to serve him, not the other way around

Granted, this scenario is overly simplistic, but here’s the point I want to make: Out of our desire to provide the best for our children (and keep them happy), some of our parenting methods may be contributing to their perception that the world revolves around them. If this is the case, they’re in for a rude awakening when they leave home and find that the world owes them nothing. And this is exactly what is happening—in astronomical proportions.

Do you see how this can translate to their life after they leave our home? To their experience in college or the workplace? To interpersonal skills with professors, coaches, and other superiors? To a marriage?  Not very well! Here’s what it can look like, now and later:

  • Parents doing their children’s homework, chores, etc.
  • Parents defending unacceptable behavior of their children in meetings with school officials
  • Parents complaining to and threatening educators, coaches, and employers when their children aren’t receiving their desired rewards
  • Parents whose lives and schedules are dominated by their children’s activities and wants
  • Young adults who call in “sick” at the last minute because they’ve found something better to do
  • Young adults who don’t take responsibility for their mistakes and shortfalls or show respect to others
  • Young adults who expect teachers and employers to accommodate them instead of the other way around

Entitlement is what we call this attitude, this sense that other people owe us something—that we are deserving, regardless of whether we have done anything to earn it. It stems from the parenting style just described and some undesirable consequences of the “self esteem movement.” As a result, children feel entitled to get their way, viewing rules as arbitrary and voluntary, their needs as paramount, and other people as existing to serve them. And parents, unwittingly, are generally the ones who are cultivating this mindset.

In order for us to give our young adults wings on which they can really fly, we can’t coddle or cave in to them. If we’ve been doing it up to this point (as revealed in our children’s behavior), we need to turn it around fast, before they get out into the real world.

We can’t set our kids up as the center of our universe and let them think the planets revolve around them. It may seem a short-term solution when they’re pitching a fit as a two-year old, or even as an immature teenager. But in the long run, it will come back to bite us—and them.

Adapted from Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, by Dennis Trittin and Arlyn Lawrence, available through LifeSmart Publishing and Atlas Books.