This is the time of year when I regularly engage in reflective conversations with graduating seniors. I consider the discussions with these young adults to be an honor. Why? Because if you have any experience with teenagers—as a parent, a teacher, a coach, an advisor, or anything else, you know that they can been restrained in articulating their inner thoughts. When they want to talk, listen.
Remove your parenting hat for a moment. Please.
Teens want to be spoken to—not down to. “Mrs. Cain, I always enjoyed talking to you because our conversations were cool! You talked to me like I was an adult.” TJ, a former student, said this to me on many occasions.
My conversations with these young adults are revealing and insightful. The lessons exchanged between me and the students are unending.
A common dilemma for students is, choosing a career path… and with their parent/guardian’s blessing. If choosing the career path isn’t difficult enough, obtaining their parent/guardian’s blessing is often the greater hurdle of the two.
Today’s conversation involved a respectful student who will receive her high school diploma in two and half weeks. For over a year, she talked to me and others about pursuing a career in the culinary arts.
I asked if she had followed through on an educational and apprenticeship program (affiliated whit a local community college) that I recommended to her. As she fumbled over her words, head down, eyes lowered, in a slight whisper, she replied, “Well, my mom said that she doesn’t see me doing culinary arts. She says that I should go to college and study business.”
My chest rises as I take a notable deep breath. I loudly exhale. Wow! I am deeply saddened and emotionally moved. I wanted to walk over to her, give her tight hug and say,
“To hell with what your mother wants! This is your dream! Run! Don’t let her steal your dreams.
Reality check!!!! I can’t say that!
“Listen KI, while I appreciate the fact that your mother loves you and wants the best for you. I also appreciate that you respect your mom, however, you have to live your dreams for you…not your mom’s dreams for you.”
I am so sick and tired of hearing this same comment from teens. Parents! Chill out! Live your own dreams! Don’t snatch your kids’ dreams faway from them!
These young adults are being placed in a very difficult position. They respect and love you as their parent/guardian—they don’t want to disappoint you. Many don’t know how to or are petrified to tell you that their dream for themselves differ from yours.
Yeah I know– we are smarter, wiser, more experienced, blah, blah, blah….
Did you know that there’s a college dropouts hall of fame list? The assorted list includes such successes as Mark Zuckerberg, Jay-Z, William Shakespeare, Russell Simmons, Troy Aikman (my all-time favorite quarterback), Jane Austin, Kathy Ireland, Mario Andretti, Louis Armstrong, Ben Affleck, Will Smith, Frank Sinatra, and founder of whole foods, John Mackay.
I mention the hall of fame website to reinforce my point that the route to achieving success, (a highly debatable and vague word) varies for most.
I do not promote skipping college, dropping out of high school, nor discontinuing ones education. I am comitted to being a life-long learner and encourage students to do the same.
I promote what is best for each individual student. With the increasing debt accrued by college students, it is vital that students who attend college really want to attend.
I don’t claim to know any child better than thier parent. As a matter of fact, there are times when I am perplexed by my own kids.
With respect to career advice, I try to guide students individually and avoid the cookie cutter approach; it doesn’t work.
Regardless of our perception of how outlandish a child’s dream is, their dream deserves to be heard and respected. If our dreamers are hardworking and willing and ready to make the necessary commitments and sacrifices, then, we are obligated to help them in finding the path most realistic and suitable for them.
Have you ever been laughed at for an idea? Has someone ever told you that your idea was dumb, stupid, or unrealistic? When dream snatchers intrudes on one’s dreams, they hurt feelings. The act is like throwing a gallon of water on a lit match. The water overpowers and suffocates the flame. We must be careful to avoid asphyxiating the dreams of our youth.
If you are a parent or have influence over a young adult through other means, I urge you to encourage and to help to stretch the dreams of our future leaders.
Today we enjoy the luxury of computers , cell phones and more. They perform functions that many of us never dreamed of. The fact: someone else envisioned and stretched an idea far beyond its conception and for that we should all be grateful.
– The late Rev. Robert L. Cain
Sites worth a peek:
http://www.ztcollege.com/ (Zero Tuition College)