Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com
One afternoon while speaking to a classroom full of freshman students, I said, “Your 4 years of high school might end up being the riskiest and most dangerous 4 years of your life. Likely, you will never again have a time in your life when you are granted an explosion of new freedoms and responsibilities, while having such a low level of experience.
A Collission Course: Expanding Freedoms vs. A Lack of Experience
“You will learn how to drive a 2000 pound car 65 mile per hour down the freeway. You will make choices on
- Where you want to go,
- What kind of summer job you want to have, and
- Whether or not you will pick up the habits of drinking, smoking, or doing drugs.
You will decide
- How you handle dating relationships,
- Which college to attend, and
- What career path to follow.
And your experience in these matters, like everyone when they are freshman, is just about … zero!
These expanding freedoms and your lack of freedoms are on a collission course. They will converge. How will you deal with that?”
Helping Your Young Person Become a Future Leader:
Sometimes the best advice we can give a young adult is to stay strong for another day. They have a long future ahead of them.
Unfortunately, as a volunteer instructor in the classroom, I focused entirely on teaching young people about the time value of money, how to open a checking account, and how interview for a job. Things like that.
We talked about the tings they could do to achieve their dreams and aspirations.
Eventually, I learned that, it many ways it was more important to give them some tools to just get through their high school years safely! To focus on things to avoid, to stay strong for another day.
Instead of focusing so much on:
- getting super grades, and
- becoming goal-oriented adults
it is sometimes more helpful to begin first with staying healthy and avoiding:
- car accidents,
- substance addictions, and
- unplanned pregnancies.
Few of us get through our high school years without making a variety of mistakes, but encouraging young people in our lives to be more intentional goes a long way towards helping them be all that they can be.
Helping a Young Person Understand the Importance of Experience
Like most of us did at that age, high school kids feel that they can do anything as well or better than their parents. If you ask them if they are as good of a driver as their parents, they will respond, “Oh, I’m a way better driver than they are!” So, ask them this:
“Do you consider yourself to be a good driver (or someone who will be a good driver as soon as you get your license)?”
If they are like most teenagers, most of them think they are among the top 10% of drivers on the road.
Give them the benefit of the doubt: “With all of the driving instruction and testing you have taken, and the fact that you are a conscientious person, you are probably a good driver. How am I doing so far?”
Now to the main question:
“Will you be an even better driver in the future, after you’ve had another year or two behind the wheel?”
Regardless of age, everyone knows the answer to that question. The more time you spend driving on different roads in rain, ice, snow, hail, sleet, high winds, blinding sun, fog, etc., the better driver you become.
Because that is how experience works.
Basically, this question asks the young person to compare themselves, not with another person who has more experience than they do, but instead with themselves – as a more experienced person. We are all more open to that concept.
In other words … You think you’re brilliant at 16? Wait until you’re 20! They get that.
It is not a matter of maturity, it is a matter of experience. No matter how mature you are, you’re not playing at the top of their game at that age. You will be better in the future.
Once they connect gaining experience with the simple passing of time, it is easy for them to realize that over that same period of time, they will grow in experience in other ways. They will gain experience that will help them make better choices in all aspects of their life.
A question to ask the young adult in your life …
“Do you consider yourself to be good at dealing with the challenges of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and other risky behaviors that have recently been thrust your way? My guess is that you have done some reading, and have participated in many conversations on the subject. You probably are good at dealing with those challenges. How am I doing so far?”
“Now … do you think you will be even better at dealing with these challenges a couple of years from now?”
Explain to them how their expanding freedoms are about to collide with their lack of experience
In the back of my book, Seeing Past Friday Night (which is also one of the topics I speak on), there is an agreement that a parent, mentor, or guardian can make with a young adult to deal with the challenges of high school in a positive way. Help the young person in your life see past Friday Night!
Here is a related post you might find interesting: I Wish I Had Smoked More Cigarettes