Never Underestimate the Power of Your Words

Think of a time when someone spoke loving or encouraging words to you. Those words will probably stay with you forever. However, you can probably think of even more instances when others have been critical or mean spirited or gossiped about you. Those words won’t be easy to forget, either, but for a different reason.

Words have incredible power—they can be uplifting and change someone’s life for the better, or they can be destructive and leave people with wounds that will last a lifetime. The thing is, the only words we have power over are our own. Once spoken, there is no way to get them back. Plus, we can’t control what other people do with the words we’ve spoken. Even if you don’t want them to, your words could end up traveling in a million different directions and—depending on what you said—get you in trouble one day. (This is especially true for anything we put on social media.)

It’s crucial to understand that our words reveal much about our character. Our words are reflections of our trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness, and respect for others. Also, they’re telltale signs of our temperament and self control. What do your words say about you? How are we doing as a nation?

In recent history, some horrific tragedies have occurred among young people when they were publicly ridiculed through gossip, texts, or social media posts. Some of these even resulted in suicide. So much heartache—all caused by words used heartlessly and irresponsibly. Yes, our words can literally be a matter of life or death, especially to people who are vulnerable.

Here are four ways to guard our words and ensure we’re received as a person of integrity:

  1. Only say things about other people you wouldn’t mind them hearing. Try it for a week and you will truly be amazed by how it affects your choice of words. (I wish every school would take this challenge. Imagine what it would do to bullying!)
  2. When offering constructive criticism, recite it back to yourself in your head before giving it to the person. How would you feel receiving this exact criticism? Be empathetic and CONSTRUCTIVE (not hurtful!).
  3. Do not put anything on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram (even in private messages) that you would not want getting out. The internet is not private, ever.
  4. If you’re in a disagreement with someone, watch out for accusations, assumptions, and the tendency to name call. If you sense that you’re reaching the “boiling point,” pause for at least ten seconds to collect yourself and your thoughts. Above all, strive for mutual understanding and avoid words that incite emotion. A calm tone, especially in disagreements, makes a big difference.

When you apply these concepts in life, you’ll be admired for your tact, restraint, and uplifting spirit. You’ll see that your words can change your heart, body, and mind from the inside out, and your relationships with your friends, significant other, coworkers, and even your children will improve. And, if you can get others to join you, it might be the beginning of a wonderful movement in our culture! Are you up for it?

What are some ways you’ve helped build a positive culture of words

in your classroom, school, family, workplace, or community?

Take Responsibility; Don’t Dodge It

 

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible
for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

~Theodore Roosevelt

 Ah, the blame game. We’ve all played it. Most of the time, it simply doesn’t feel good to accept responsibility when we’ve fallen short, so we cast the blame on others (e.g., “If my teacher wasn’t so rude, I wouldn’t have failed the class.” “I know I got a speeding ticket, but my friend made me late!” “My teammates cost us the win.”).

However, we’re all human, so we make mistakes.  Every single one of us. Sometimes those mistakes are completely innocent and happen by accident, and sometimes they stem from a bad decision, a character flaw, or selfish motives. But no matter what, mistakes and shortfalls are part of life. While no one keeps track, they number well into the thousands in a lifetime. That being the case, one has to wonder why it’s so difficult for us to admit our mistakes and accept responsibility.

Is it because the words “I’m sorry” don’t come easily? In such cases, it’s sometimes easier (and feels less shameful) to blame others and make excuses. Our pride gets in the way.

Or, maybe we fear how others will react. For people who have been victims of abuse, this is a natural response.

Is there a better way to handle our mistakes?

People who are prone to blame others first are actually reflecting their own insecurities. Implicitly, they assume their relationships can’t withstand an acknowledgement of a mistake or shortfall. However, it’s a false assumption, especially since most people appreciate it when someone admits a mistake and asks for forgiveness.

When you make a mistake or your best efforts fall short of the goal, you can do one of two things:

  1. You can TAKE responsibility, apologize if appropriate, do what you can to make things right, and commit to doing better the next time around.
  2. You can DODGE responsibility, blame someone else (or the circumstances), and walk away from the situation – leaving others (and yourself!) with the problem you created.

Choice #1 will gain you the respect of your family, peers, and colleagues and help you learn from your mistake. It’s an act of integrity. Choice #2, on the other hand, will damage your reputation and deprive you of a valuable opportunity for personal growth.

Refusing to own up to our shortfalls creates a blind spot in our lives—one that might cause us to miss out on great opportunities to learn and grow! That professor who was “biased” against you? She could have turned out to be a great tutor. The coach you were convinced benched you every game because “he didn’t like you?” He could have been a great trainer and helped you up your game. That “jealous” classmate? She could have helped you become a better friend.

The long and short of it is this: Accepting responsibility is a hallmark of a true leader and a sign of maturity. The next time you’re tempted to blame first, swallow your pride and admit that you fell short. You’ll be respected and admired by others when you do… and you might be surprised by the grace they extend to you in return!

Do you find it difficult to admit your mistakes and accept that you aren’t perfect? Why? How do you develop the value of taking responsibility for mistakes in your teens or students?

Humility Over Pride

The general election is just days away! Things always get pretty crazy during this week every four years—lots of promises made, reflections on presidents of the past, inflammatory rants on social media pages—the list goes on. As I think about what a new president will mean for our future, I also find myself thinking about history, and something I think we are all looking for right now: a little bit of humility.

No matter what political party you are affiliated with (if any), I think we can all agree that Abraham Lincoln was a pretty remarkable man.  Despite his humble beginnings, he accomplished some incredible things (beginning the process of ending slavery, maintaining the union during the Civil War, and setting an example of integrity and wisdom). I wish we had more role models like him today.

One of my own role models during my long investment career was a colleague named Ernie Ankrim, a brilliant financial thinker who became the chief market strategist where I worked. However, as smart a strategist as he was, Ernie was equally gifted in public speaking.

Everyone admired how Ernie shared his insights with such humor and wit. He was the total package and audiences could never get enough of him. (It was painful to follow him!) Yet, despite all of his accolades, Ernie is the one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. If anyone had bragging rights it was Ernie, yet he was always the first to give others the credit.

Ernie’s humility has had an enormous impact on my life and my behavior. Whenever I’ve been acknowledged for a good work or some success, I often think, “How would Ernie respond?” My answer is always the same. First and foremost, I owe my success to others.

Abe Lincoln had a similar philosophy. He famously said, “What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.”

As you travel along your life journey, you’ll have many proud achievements along the way. And you know what?  They’ll likely speak for themselves. You won’t have to toot your own horn to get people to notice you.

Here are three tips to help you become more humble (and I think we can all hope our presidential nominees will apply these to their lives as well!):

  1. Ask for feedback from others. Instead of insisting you’re always right (or your way is the only way), consider asking others for feedback on your performance (what went well and where can I up my game?). They may offer some insight you never would have thought of yourself!
  2. Understand that adversity can be preparation for greater things. Setbacks are a part of life, unfortunately. Humility allows you to accept these obstacles without the fear of failure, to dust yourself off, and start again.
  3. Confront your negative opinions of others. Do you have any deep-rooted prejudices? Chances are, you’re too proud to admit it. It’s important to recognize these (for example, negative views on certain people groups, etc.), and then make the effort to listen and learn with an open mind.

 

And, when successes come your way, rejoice and be grateful to those who helped make it happen. Your acknowledgement of others first, before you give yourself a pat on the back, will be greatly admired and will set you up as a leader of integrity.

When you do something great, is your first instinct to give yourself the credit or others who have helped make you the person you are today? Who comes to mind as someone you would like to thank or give credit?

The Value of Values: Part 3

What do you value most in life? Is it your collector’s hot rod? Your job? Your beach house? Your iPhone? Or, is it something less tangible, like integrity, family togetherness, spirituality, respect, or serving others? Hopefully, it’s one of the latter.

In case you’ve missed it, we’ve been talking a lot about values around here lately, and stressing the importance of instilling strong values in the young people we parent, coach, mentor, and teach. As ethics, morals, manners, and values have become de-emphasized in the public square, political arena, entertainment industry, and corporate boardrooms, we’re witnessing a downward slide in our nation’s character. When character is disregarded or devalued, relativism, “meism,” and chaos fills the vacuum. There’s just no getting around it.

In this last part in our series, I’d like to discuss three more elemental values that are instrumental in creating virtuous and admirable character. Upholding (and believing in) these values not only benefits the upholder, but also his or her family, friends, employer, classmates, coworkers, and beyond. By restoring our societal commitment to character and values, it would truly be a world changer.

  1. Patience. Have you ever lost your patience while waiting in an endless line, or dealing with a finicky customer? Have you ever thrown out some not-so-nice hand gestures in a fit of road rage? Or, how about when you throw a tantrum with your family or friends when things don’t go your way or people disappoint you? The fact is, losing your patience usually does more harm than good in almost every situation. Learning to be patient in all circumstances makes us more pleasant people to be around and allows us to handle stressful situations and conflict in a more level-headed manner. Taking a deep breath and counting to 20 before responding is wise medicine. After all, today’s impatience is often tomorrow’s apology.
  2. Courage. Do you handle tough situations with bravery, or are you more inclined to backing down or withdrawing? Of course, there’s a time and a place for walking away, but sometimes, courage is key. Courage means never letting your fears drive your life, and instead, stepping out of your comfort zone and always doing the right thing and standing up for yourself (respectfully), no matter how un-cool it may seem.
  3. Self-control. This is likely a tough one for many of us. Self-control can be related to our outward behavior (for example, how we impulsively react when we are annoyed or angry), as well as our internal motivations (for example, our relationship with food). When you practice self control, it means that you are able to manage your impulses and respond to temptation in a way that benefits yourself and others. Instead of reacting in the heat of the moment, you’re able to reel yourself in and think about your choices before you actually make them. This is a big one, friends. Consider taking a moment to self-check and see if there are any areas where you could use greater self control.

In case you missed the last two parts in this series, you can catch up on them here and here. For our comprehensive positive traits and values list, click here. We encourage you to discuss them with your families and students as a great self-awareness project. Which ones are we modeling well? Where could we up our game? Are any of them outdated? What others might you add to the list?

Thank you for being a part of this series! Have a great school year!

Building Workplace Readiness Skills: Part One

We’ve heard the stories all too often. You have your own stories, no doubt, but here are some of mine:

  • My friend, a corporate executive, was preparing to interview five finalists for a new position; only one showed up on time. (Guess who landed the job?)
  • Another employer was recruiting at a career fair on a college campus. Based on first impressions and conversations with graduating seniors, not a single student was invited in for an interview.
  • A local restaurant owner received a call from an “ill” teenage employee five minutes before start time, yet fifteen minutes later she was posting pictures of herself at a beach party. It cost her the job.

You might think these are exceptional cases, but we hear stories like this all the time from employers of teens and young adults. As accomplished as young workers may be academically or otherwise, far too many are not workplace ready.

As the marketplace becomes more competitive, are we actually regressing at launching real world-ready graduates from our homes and schools? Many agree and point to such contributors as ineffective parenting, lack of whole person training in schools, and high youth unemployment rates.

This is why I’ve been encouraged by the work at the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia and CTECS (Career and Technical Education Consortium of States), who have taken proactive steps to turn the tide. They surveyed employers to identify their most valued workplace readiness skills, and their conclusions, summarized here, establish 21 Workplace Readiness Skills (WRS) for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

[After reviewing the WRS list, we were gratified to learn that our What I Wish I Knew at 18 curriculum (including our “How to Be an MVP Employee” DVD) address 14 of these 21 employer-based skills! You can see how our lessons and success pointers align to these WRS here.]

At LifeSmart, we want to contribute to this crucial conversation by sharing some thoughts on ten of these important skills, starting this week with “Work Ethic” and “Integrity.” We hope you’ll follow along in our series and share your ideas as we go!

Work Ethic   

Fresh out of college, Joe arrives at his new job with visions of grandeur—perhaps a corner office with a great view. Then reality hits—his new work station is a bite-sized interior cubicle. Feeling disgraced, he delivers an inferior product and doesn’t last long.
How can we help the “Joes” we know—whether as students, mentees, or children in our home? Parents can help by instilling the intrinsic value of hard work, avoiding doing their work for them (including homework!), and by not condoning efforts that are clearly lacking.

Educators can help by being mindful of how grade inflation is affecting work ethic and creating attitudes of entitlement. Our colleges and employers are increasingly dealing with both, as students feel “deserving” of special considerations and concessions.

The bottom line: A strong work ethic builds dependability—an essential leadership quality.

Integrity

“We may not always be loved, but we must always be trusted.” This saying is so true! Integrity is one of the most important qualities (arguably number one!) that make up one’s “personal brand.” It’s very difficult to recover from a damaged reputation, and a lack of integrity is often the cause.

 

Here are five attributes of a person of integrity:

  1. They always tell the truth and call out the untruths of others.
  2. They own up to their mistakes and shortfalls.
  3. They uphold high ethical standards, both personally and professionally.
  4. They keep their promises.
  5. They keep their communications about others neutral or positive (especially those who are not present).

 

Whether we’re educators, parents, or mentors, we all have opportunities to incorporate these vital skills into our training of this generation. As you consider those under your guidance, how do they fare on these 21 skills? How might you help address the gaps?

 

Playing the Blame Game Won’t Help You Win

 

Consider this scenario: It’s finals week, and you’ve spent the last few days cramming like mad. Deep down, you know you should have started studying earlier in the month, but with intramural football, that new video game, spontaneous trips to the beach, and Netflix parties with your friends, there just wasn’t enough time. Although you’re doing all the “right things” now by highlighting your reading and going over old quizzes, you’re rushed and anxious.  It’s no surprise, then, to see a disappointing C- at the top of your paper. Regrettably, you know you could have done better.

So, what now? Do you take issue with the professor or teacher, complaining that the questions were too hard? Do you accuse him or her of biased grading, or being out to get you? Do you compare your test to those of classmates who earned better grades? Worse yet, do you recruit your parents to petition on your behalf?!?

Or, do you take personal responsibility for your grade and accept the fact that you underprepared? Will you own the outcome?

We call this topic “Accepting Personal Responsibility for Our Mistakes and Shortfalls.” And believe me, it’s no easy feat. However, it’s a sign of maturity and a hallmark of a true leader. Being able to put complaints, self-pity, and the desire to blame others for a negative outcome aside is a sign of integrity and self-awareness. Moreover, accepting responsibility causes us to live with an accurate perspective of reality.

Blame shifting and negative behavior justification distorts our reality—causing us to live in a world where we believe we do no wrong. It’s rooted in insecurity, and it affects our decision making, job performance, academic achievements, relationships, and more. Everyone else screws up but us, right? Wrong! The real reality is that we all mess up but have the capacity to accept the consequences and learn from our mistakes.

Refusing to own up to our shortfalls creates a blind spot in our lives—one that may cause us to miss out on great opportunities. That professor who was “biased” against you? She could have turned out to be a great tutor. The coach who you were convinced benched you every game because he “didn’t like you?” He could have been a great personal trainer and helped you up your game. That classmate who was “jealous of you?” She could have helped you become a better friend.

The long and short of it is this: as we grow into well-rounded, confident, and contributing members of society, it’s crucial that we accept responsibility for our mistakes and shortfalls. Although it may seem difficult at the time, this practice will make us better friends, employees, players, and students who have an accurate and healthy view of ourselves and the world around us. Humility and self-awareness are of high value, so start this practice now!

Can you think of a situation where you stood up and took responsibility for your actions? What good came from it? If you are a parent, teacher, or mentor, consider taking some time to sit down with your teen and talk through real-world examples of accepting responsibility for poor choices.

Priceless Mentoring Conversations

mentoring

You did it! You’ve entered into one of the most important and fulfilling roles you’ll ever play. You’re a mentor. And now that you’ve signed up, you’re probably wondering, “What next?” And, then you remember all of the mentors who invested in you and how they…

  • Listened to what was on your mind and heart
  • Encouraged you every step of the way
  • Inspired you to be more than you ever imagined you could be
  • Shared real life stories to help you face difficult situations
  • Offered wisdom that you would apply in the years ahead
  • Understood you and believed in you

    These are the hallmarks of a great mentor.

If you are a new mentor, perhaps you’re asking the question, “What should we talk about?” Of course, the answer depends on the age of your mentee and whether yours is a more formal or informal mentoring relationship. If it’s a formal one, you’ll be given guidance and direction from your program leaders. Regardless, the age of your mentee will also inform your conversations…helping them navigate life NOW while sharing a glimpse of what lies ahead in the next few years. That’s different for a fourth grader than for a middle schooler or high schooler.

In our work with What I Wish I Knew at 18, we are often asked what are the most important topics to share with the younger generation, whether in the classroom, the home, or in mentoring relationships. Drawing from our recent “Leadership for a Lifetime” blog series, here are some invaluable subjects to discuss in an age-appropriate way and when the timing is right:

  1. Their uniqueness, value, and strengths. Far too many young people have an incomplete understanding of the treasure they are to this world. You can help them build their self awareness of who they are and what they have to offer. This Personal Balance Sheet exercise can help.
  2. The importance of positivity. It is said that you become the average of the five friends with whom you associate with most. Whether it’s friends, music, video games, TV, movies, or websites, surrounding yourself with positive influences is a key in life.
  3. Living with vision and intentionality. Today’s students are facing tremendous pressures, distractions, and anxiety with little margin to spare. It’s easy to become consumed with the NOW. Have them share their dreams and their goals for the next five years. Then, encourage them to make plans to turn their dreams into reality.
  4. Building a personal brand based on integrity. Brands aren’t just for businesses like Coca Cola and Starbucks! Encourage your mentees to develop a strong set of core values like integrity, work ethic, dependability, kindness, generosity, respect, teamwork, humility, and high standards of excellence. Share whom you admire the most and encourage your mentee to do the same, and you’ll open up this critical topic.
  5. The value of adversity and the power of resilience. Help them understand that adversity happens to all of us (using your own story for examples). The question is, How will we handle it? Share the personal growth you’ve gained from adversity and how those who helped you often faced similar challenges. Today’s adversity can become tomorrow’s encouragement to someone else!
  6. Time is of the essence. We’ve never faced a time when distractions were more prevalent. Help your mentees understand that time is a precious asset and should be managed accordingly.
  7. The secret formula to life. In the end, life is about how we use our time, talents, and treasure to make the world a better place. Through conversation and volunteering together, you’ll help them appreciate the formula, U>Me.
  8. Stay flexible. While you may have a lesson topic in mind, it’s important to ask whether there’s anything special they’d like to discuss. Whatever that is, that’s where you go!

We hope these suggestions lead to unforgettable conversations with you and your mentee. We salute you and wish you the very best in your mentoring relationships!

The Joy of Living Generously

The value of a man resides in what he gives
and not in what he is capable of receiving.
~Albert Einstein

Really, life’s greatest joys come not in the getting, but in the giving. Don’t you agree?

People who live generously—not just with their money, but with their whole person—deserve special admiration. They’re not motivated by fame or fortune, but rather by joyful service. Their qualities of generosity, empathy, compassion, and kindness make them inspiring treasures to us all. And although those values tend to get more press at Christmastime, they are values we should all aspire to live by all year long.

Generosity is a paradox. The culture around us screams materialism and commercialism – Buy, buy, buy. Accumulate. Indulge. On the other hand, there is a whole world out there that desperately needs what we have to offer. It invites us to give, serve, help, and empower. The paradox of generosity is this: the more we give, the more we get! It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true. We find our life by losing it. We win by losing. We gain by giving away. And, our greatest memories are of the gifts we gave rather than the ones we received.

This kind of generosity requires sacrifice—not just financial, but personal. Yes, it can be stretching and uncomfortable. But slowly, we begin to realize there’s more to life than what we own and can hold onto.

Have you ever wanted to change the world? This is where it starts. In fact, how you eventually impact the world will be driven not merely by what you have to offer but what you choose to offer. It’s the ultimate generosity test, isn’t it?

What do you uniquely have to offer the world? There are many different avenues that can allow you to allocate your personal resources to serve others. To decide how best to give what you have to benefit others, there are three main questions to consider:

  • What talents, skills, and resources do I have to offer?
  • What groups or community segments (e.g., youth, elderly, homeless) do I feel most called to help
  • What organizations will allow me to use my time, talents, and treasure to help those I feel most passionately about?Could your answers to these questions be a New Year’s resolution in the making

What would happen in our communities if we all cultivated and demonstrated this heart of generosity, of “other-centeredness” as a way of life, embodying the qualities of generosity and compassion in our everyday dealings with people? I think the world would be a more welcoming place! With that in mind, here are some ideas for living generously this holiday season—and throughout the year:

  • Make a donation to an organization serving people and causes you are passionate about.
  • Look for ways to be creatively generous if you are on a limited budget. How can you give time? Attention? Acts of service? Material possessions? You could sell something you own and give away the proceeds.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter in your city.
  • Visit a nursing home or hospital. Listen to their stories, or tell some of your own. Just sit with them if that’s what brings comfort.
  • Allow yourself to be interrupted without being irritated—this is a mark of a generous spirit. (Or, put down your mobile device and give the people around you your undivided attention.)
  • Make yourself available to people or organizations, free of charge, for consulting on an area or topic in which you have expertise.

This short list of ideas just scratches the surface—you may even come up with better ones! The bottom line is this: Living generously will bring help and hope to others and immense joy to you in return. You’ll receive far more than what you give. Nothing compares with using all of you to serve and improve the world around you. This is the true spirit of Christmas!

Have you experienced the deep satisfaction that “giving yourself away” evokes? What have you done and how has it impacted you. Looking ahead, what new ways do you envision using your time, talent, and treasure to make the world a better place? Share your thoughts; we’d love to hear your stories and ideas!

Leadership for a Lifetime: Other-Centeredness

Has anyone ever done something nice for you that was so refreshing, it made your day? Maybe the person ahead of you at Starbucks paid for your coffee. A family member did your chores for you (without being asked). A friend brought or bought you dinner. It feels good, doesn’t it, when others go out of their way to express kindness to us?

And, it works both ways. When we’re the giver…we, too, share in the joy of the receiver. (As we enter the season of gifts, you’ll no doubt witness this firsthand!) It’s why the secret formula for a fulfilling life is: U>Me. It’s also why OTHER CENTEREDNESS is a hallmark of great leaders.

The principle of other-centeredness applies equally to our professional lives, even if it’s less commonly taught and practiced. Whether we’re business owners, department heads, managers, team leaders, coaches, teachers, or mentors, we will be placed in positions of influence and relationship. How will we approach them? Well, did you notice the emphasis on the word “them?” These kinds of leaders—both personally and professionally—are not self-centered; they’re other-centered.  For them, it’s not all about “me”; rather, it’s also and maybe even more about “others.” By empowering and encouraging people and setting them up for success, these leaders embrace a positive leadership lifestyle—and the results are remarkable.I had the great privilege of working for a company that modeled this to a “T.” Under the leadership of George and Jane Russell, Russell Investments put its people first. Not the owners. Not the customers. The people. George always said, “If you put the people first, they’ll take care of the customers. It doesn’t always work the other way around.” By doing so, the company won several state and national awards for being “the best place to work.” Having experienced this leadership culture myself, I can say it was like an extended family. (Remember I’m talking about work here!) And, during my tenure, we grew from a small investment firm of $1 billion of assets into a $220 billion global powerhouse! Putting employees first even helps the bottom line! “Earth to CEOs!”

Some years ago, researchers at Performance Advantage polled workers to identify what motivates them most on the job. Guess what they found out. Do you think it was fear? Money? Power? Promotions? Benefits? Nope. The top three motivators were: 1) being appreciated, 2) being in the loop and invited into decisions, and 3) having an understanding manager! All three are signs of other-centered leadership! And, they’re free!

What would happen if we all tried living for a week in an “other-centered” universe? In this universe others are not put in this world to serve our needs, so we cannot legitimately get frustrated by the elderly lady ahead of us at the store checkout who takes forever to put her change away, or the guy who cuts us off on the freeway. In this universe, we work in a cooperative spirit on the job (and in our families!) and are genuinely excited to see and help others succeed. In this universe, we endeavor to serve those we lead instead of the other way around.

 

The bottom line: Whether personally or professionally, the secret formula to life is: U > Me!

Cultivating Strong Character in Our Children

ID-100297304“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character…” – Billy Graham

Benjamin Franklin is credited with the saying that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. However, allow me to add a third thing–when your teen leaves home, his or her values will be tested. How will he or she hold up, especially when homesick, friendsick, or experiencing a raging case of the lonelies? How will they react when put in a high risk situation at a party, or offered to have their mid-semester paper authored by their English major friend? During times like these, it helps mightily to have a strong character foundation. It also pays to have a well-developed list of non-negotiable values that they will, under no circumstances, compromise.

Here, on this personal balance sheet, you will find a list of values (as well as other personal assets) that you can discuss with your teen/student. Ask them which ones are most important to them and why. Discuss which ones they would never compromise, and which values they’d like to strengthen in their own lives.

Additionally, here are some helpful pointers to reinforce:

  • Character is revealed through our attitudes, behaviors, and decisions, and is often revealed when no one else is looking
  • It is extremely difficult to recover from a damaged reputation
  • Surround yourself with positive people who will help uphold your values, not encourage you to compromise them
  • The best way to maintain strong character is to avoid potentially compromising situations. The old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies!
  • You may not always be loved, but you must be trusted
  • Don’t say something about someone else you’d regret if they heard (hard to do, but such a great discipline)
  • If you’re not sure whether to do or say something, imagine it as the headline in tomorrow’s newspaper

As you develop a strong character foundation in your teen, here are some helpful questions to consider. Use them to help guide you as you navigate parenting an older teen, even if he/she has already moved away from home. Alternately, allow your child the opportunity to answer these questions about themselves.

  • Are they guided by integrity in everything?
  • Do they demonstrate love, kindness, and respect toward others?
  • Do they live with honor and self-discipline?
  • Do they stand up for their beliefs and values with conviction?
  • Are they people of humility who encourage others?
  • Do they demonstrate a commitment to excellence and giving it their best effort?
  • Do they take full responsibility for their mistakes and shortfalls?

Know that in the teen and young adult years when they’re facing major life transitions and social adjustments, they will slip up sometimes. That’s one reason it’s so important to share in humility your own mistakes. Let them know you weren’t perfect either!

Parents, how would you rate yourself when it comes to building character in your children? What methods have you utilized to help build a strong character foundation? What have you noticed works best? As always, feel free to join in on the conversation!

 

Photo: Freedigitalphotos.net, by Stuart Miles