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TEENS WHO MAKE GOOD CHOICES

What are the characteristics of a teenager who DOESN’T get into trouble?

I had to think about this when preparing for the keynote address at a recent meeting of Tucson’s Community Prevention Coalition. My topic was the role of parents in preventing teen substance abuse.

It seems to me the teenager who makes good choices has two important characteristics. He or she is CONFIDENT. Not cocky or egotistical but confident in the sense of being centered enough to know “I can handle what comes.”

Confident children feel:

• I am loved

• I am valued

• I count around here

• I can do it

• I have a future

It’s obvious that parents play a big role in helping their children grow to have these feelings. The love part is pretty easy. But feeling valued and feeling “counted around here”derive from having chores and responsibilities. The feelings that you can do it and that you have a future come from parents who stress and foster competency, have high expectations of their children, value education, and take the time to talk about the future with their child. Alas, too many of us these days, young and old alike, are involved in instant gratification today with little thought for the future.

The second characteristic is that the teen who stays out of trouble is RESPONSIBLE.

My definition of a responsible teen is that he or she:

• Stays in school

• Dreams of and plans for a future

• Makes wise choices

• Does not harm self or others

• Builds value system of a citizen

• Treats others kindly

• Begins to think for him/her self

Parents must start encouraging responsibility early. Waiting until the kid is a teenager won’t work. Believe me I hear from lots of parents with obnoxious teenagers who wish they had started early.

The key is to be an in-charge parent who expects the child to do chores and do well in school and who encourages and enables the child to take on increasing responsibilities.

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