Motivating Teens Toward Greatness

"I reared a Criminal” was the title of an article that appeared in The Ladies’ Home Journal. It was the true story of a heart-broken mother who said: “We loved him, but:

“His father was too busy to be with him when he was young.

“I couldn’t bring myself to punish him for misbehavior.

“We sided against teachers when they complained about his work and conduct in school.

“As he grew up, he would hardly discuss the time of day with us.

“He was expelled from school.

“We gave him money so he wouldn’t steal again.

“I wept when the police called and I had to turn my boy over to them. As I watched them search him, my life seemed to end.”
In North America a traffic accident involving an intoxicated teenagers will take place every fifteen seconds. Suicide is the next highest cause of death among teens. The same problems also affect the rest of the Western world.

Why do some young people destroy their lives, why do others remain mediocre, and why do others succeed or become great?
And young people can be great. For instance, Victor Hugo wrote one of his tragedies at the age of fifteen. Pascal wrote a great work at sixteen. Raphael painted his wonderful works as a young man. Tennyson wrote his first volume at eighteen. Joan of Arc did all her work before being burned at the stake at nineteen.

Romulus founded Rome at twenty. Alexander the Great had conquered the world by the time he was twenty-three. Isaac Newton was only twenty–four when he formulated the Law of Gravity. McCormick invented the reaper when he was twenty-three, and Charles Dickens wrote his Pickwick Papers at twenty-four and Oliver Twist at twenty-five.

I wept when the police called and
I had to turn my boy over to them.
As I watched them search him
my life seemed to end.

How can we as adults and parents motivate more of our younger generation toward greatness?

Touch them with love. Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a letter from an anguished Sunday school teacher appeared in a Dallas newspaper. The teacher told of having a boy in his class whom he never reached with the Christian message. His name? Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who later shot John Kennedy.

Five years later another Sunday school teacher in Pasadena, California, grieved over what might have happened to one of his dropouts. A twelve-year-old dark-skinned boy came to his class two or three times, then stopped. The teacher never bothered to call on him or invite him back. This boy’s name? Sirhan Sirhan, the man who later killed Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Train them in self reliance. A recent university study shows that the happiest and best-adjusted young people and adults are those who believe they have a good measure of control over their own lives.

This is why, from infancy, I tried to teach our two boys that they can make of their lives and do with them exactly what they want, providing they want to badly enough and are willing to study and work hard enough for it.

To attain emotional maturity,” writes Aaron Stern in his book, Me: The Narcissistic American, each of us must learn to develop two critical capacities: the ability to live with uncertainty and the ability to delay immediate gratification in favor of long–range goals.

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