At church on Sunday, I had an interesting conversation with a couple my wife and I are good friends with. The topic of discussion eventually fell on their son who is now a Sophomore in high school.
They were discussing a few aspects of their son, mainly centering around his dating life which gave me quite a bit of fuel for a few Teach Your Kids This articles that I will be posting in the near future. This is the first of such articles that was inspired by our conversation.
Without getting into too much personal detail about this family from church, I’ve known them for quite some time and the father and I hang out regularly, so I see how the family interacts with each other outside the church. I don’t really have anything negative to say. The father is a good, strong leader of his household and his son, while a bit spastic sometimes, is an all around good kid with a good head on his shoulders. He goes through the normal things teenage boys go through, which leads me to the first point we’ll be discussing today:
Sort out your priorities.
The reason this sprung to mind after our conversation on Sunday was because this kid is getting wrapped up in the dating scene. I was told he dated one girl in the past that was certifiably crazy and is now pining after a girl who, according to his mother, is out of his league (the father was saying “That’s my boy! Go get’em!”).
The details are a bit hazy now from my high school years, but one thing I remember is how so much of your ego and identity can get wrapped up in whether you’re dating someone or perpetually single. You see your friends dating cute girls and wonder why you’re not. Looking back, you realize it was stupid, but in the midst of it all, a teenager can get easily overwhelmed and throw their priorities all out of whack.
That being said, I have developed four basic priorities that every parent should foster in their kids -primarily sons, but these priorities are good for daughters as well- and help them understand why other, unimportant things shouldn’t undermine these top four.
Priority 1: Putting God First
If you’re not a religious person, you can substitute this out however you see fit, but the big thing is, your son or daughter must have a strong spiritual base and value system. They need to understand what is right and wrong, why it’s right or wrong, and what can happen should you stray off the path.
A strong spiritual base is probably one of the most important things you can develop in your children as it will impact nearly everything else they do.
Priority 2: Developing Skillsets
I liken these priorities to financial investments. The earlier in life a kid starts investing in themselves, the bigger the eventual payoff will be. With that in mind, kids should be encouraged to study new subjects, get out and get their hands dirty, and praised on their ventures.
There’s some basics that I believe every kid should know, but beyond that, the sky is the limit. Perhaps your kid shows interest in programming or carpentry. Go out and get him a cheap toolkit or programming book and see where it goes. In a week’s time, he might be creating his first simple program or building a chair. Those are skills that will be with him for a lifetime.
Priorities 3/4: Fitness/Finances
I deliberated on these two for a while and couldn’t ever determine which one should be placed higher than the other, so I stuck them on the same level.
These two priorities, more than any other listed above, really illustrate the value of investing early and often. If I could go back in time to my high school days and do anything different, it would have been to begin lifting weights (as opposed to running Cross Country) and socking away any money I earned instead of spending it on stupid shit.
Find me a teenage boy who’s lifting weights regularly and saving all the money he earns, and I’ll show you someone who’s going to be quite successful in 5-10 years.
So what did I leave off? Girls, material possessions, and video games/TV. In high school, none of those things will benefit you. Hell, video games/TV will NEVER benefit you, but I digress.
If your kid is getting too wrapped up in who’s dating who at school, sit them down and hit them with some truth bombs. Explain to them why they should be investing in themselves instead of worrying about getting a date for Saturday night.