I had an interesting conversation in class today with a 17-year-old young man who was very open about the fact that he used marijuana and had sex.
During the class, I asked him if he would want his future child to use marijuana or have sex when he or she is a teenager. He said, “NO, my son is only going to have three things in his life: God, sports and school! He’s not going to do drugs or have sex.”
I asked him why he would want more for his child than he wanted for himself. He said, “I don’t want my child to make the same mistakes that I have made.” I hear that statement from teenagers ALL the time, by the way.
After class, I pulled this young man aside and continued to challenge his thinking about the standards he has for himself vs. the standards he would have for his future child. I wanted him to understand that his life is JUST as valuable as his future child’s life will be.
I asked him why he wouldn’t only want “God, sports and school” for himself if he thought that was what would be best for his future child. He said, “I didn’t have that kind of life when I was growing up; we moved around a lot.” In his mind, it is too late for him to do or have what he wants for his child.
It breaks my heart that a 17 year old has already decided that it is too late for him to get the best that life has to offer.
My approach is to help young people understand that it is NEVER too late to make better choices and help them connect the choices they make today with the type of life they want to live tomorrow (or the life they want their child to live).
Though this young man wanted all these things for his future child, I shared with him that the path that he was on today was not going to get his child that lifestyle.
Young people can easily tell you all about the life they want for their future children. But it hasn’t occurred to them that the choices they make today will determine whether their future children will get that life. For some reason they believe that when they become an adult, something magical happens that puts them in a position to give their child the best life.
I teach them that the way to increase the chances their child will get the type of lifestyle they may not have had starts with the decisions they make today.
One of my messages to students is that they must BEGIN with the END in mind! All choices get them closer to where they want to go or move them farther from where they want to be. Very few choices have no impact on their future, especially the major decisions. Sex is a MAJOR decision!
This young man said he understood what I was saying and appeared to “get it.” I can only hope that will translate into different behavior.
If you ever experience a similar situation with a young person, following are some questions you can ask to help the young person understand what it means to BEGIN with the END in mind:
- What kind of school would you like for your child to attend?
- What kind of extracurricular activities will your child be involved in?
- What kind of career will you have that will allow you to afford the school and the extracurricular activities that you desire for your child?
- Will your child be raised in a single parent home or a home where both parents are present?
- Based on your current decisions, are you on the path to becoming the kind of parent you want for your child?
Unfortunately the only way some young people will understand the impact their current decisions will have on their future child(ren) is for someone to be this specific with them.
Read what another young man who obviously “got it” wrote:
I have learned a lot of things that will help me make better decisions in life. One of my favorite things I learned from you was that one generation’s choices affect the next generation. I believe that statement is so true because the choices I make will either be in favor of my child or hurt them in the long run.
To add on to that statement, you said I will start the first chapter of my child’s life story depending on my decisions. That was brilliant! That speaks to me and makes me want to make the right decisions in life to do better for my child than my parents did. One of my major life choices is staying abstinent till marriage.
I’m not going to lie, I am 15, good looking, in shape and I treat girls right. I have had chances to lose my virginity but have gotten my way out of it. But each year, it gets harder to stay a virgin. I get pressured by my friends a lot, but I ignore them and it works when they see I have a hot girlfriend.
If you could go back, what would you tell your teenaged self that would have changed the course of your life? With hindsight, we understand now what we didn’t understand then. I encourage you to share these insights in hopes of enlightening a teen who may be at the same place as your younger self because this generation still has the power to help the next! I welcome your thoughts in the comments below.