Life is a series of choices, some planned and some not. Some involve fun and others involve pain. Some are made from the mind and others from the heart. Some turn out well, and some we regret.
I was blessed to work for an amazing leader, George Russell, who could distill the complex down to simple truisms or questions. One of them was, “If you’re not sure whether to do something, imagine it as the headline in tomorrow’s newspaper.” Yowza!
This works like a charm in our personal lives, too—heeding that “inner voice” that has our best interests at heart. I know every time I ignored it, I lived to regret it.
It’s that time of year again. Graduation exhilaration runs rampant. Parties abound. There is much to celebrate—and, you guessed it—lots of values-based choices! Are your kids ready to make the right ones, both now and in the future?
In a cultural climate where “values” are often measured on a slippery scale of personal taste, convenience, self-gratification, and “tolerance,” kids can get into real trouble when they dismiss the caution signals. That’s why helping young people identify their values and strengthen their conscience is so important.
Yes, I am advocating “conscience training!” In times of growing independence, freedom, and opportunities, young people are increasingly faced with risky situations that require quick decisions. In some cases, often involving alcohol, drugs, sex, social media, and cheating, one bad decision in the heat of the moment may do irrepairable harm and derail their future plans and dreams.
That’s why having—and listening to—that little voice in their head is so important in high-risk situations. Here are some ways to help set your teen up for success when it’s their turn:
· Have them list their non-negotiable values
· Help them identify potential risks before the fact
· Discuss potential situations that may put their reputation and integrity at risk and how difficult it can be to recover
· Remind them their best bet is to avoid these situations altogether before they occur. And, if they can’t avoid them, they should at least decide in advance how they will react if their values are tested.
I’ve heard far too many stories of people who didn’t heed this advice and whose college terms or career aspirations were abbreviated because of it. They often lose years of momentum and wander aimlessly in the aftermath. Many times this could have been avoided had they asked themselves one simple question:
“How will my conscience feel in the morning?”
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to make a quick decision that challenged your value system? Did you have the courage to go with your values over the pressure you received from others? Share your experiences with your teen. Remember that life is about learning and recovering from our mistakes, and that stories are often the best teachers.