Staples principal John Dodig is a keen observer of teenagers — and of the environments that shape them.
In this month’s PTA Newsletter, he offers some insights into how we can more positively shape those environments. It deserves an audience far wider than just the parents of local high school students.
I have been going to the same gym in the early morning for about 10 years now. I have noticed that beginning in late January of each year, the number of people who show up at the door at 5 a.m. increases visibly. These must be people who resolve to do something about their weight, their lethargy, their health, etc.
By the end of February they are all gone. What good are New Year’s resolutions when we know from the start there is no way we will stick with them? Knowing that resolutions should be easily doable, I came up with a list to share that some of you may find useful:
- Resolve to allow your child to experience failure or rejection without coming to her/his aid. If your child gets a “C” on a test or gets cut from a team or doesn’t get a part in a play, offer a shoulder to cry on but let her/him know that things like this will happen throughout life. Being resilient is a helpful skill for one’s entire life.
- If you don’t already, tell your children that you love them at a moment when nothing special is happening. I know this sounds silly, but I keep hearing from kids that they only hear those words when they bring home A’s on their report card or score a goal or get a part. In other words, for an accomplishment. They can’t sort through the message that it is really them that you love just for being your children.
Try saying NO once in a while to a request that you know in your gut is not appropriate, and that the decision may incur the anger of your child. I can’t tell you the number of parents who just can’t say no when asked for permission to go to a concert on a Tuesday night, for example. Coming home at 1 a.m. seems inappropriate when the next morning is a school day, but saying no is so difficult.
- Resolve never, ever, ever to leave your child at home alone on a weekend. This may work for some of you, but I stopped counting the number of times we hear about a child being left alone, perhaps with a sleepover friend, and the home being crashed by a dozen teenagers. It is impossible for your child to monitor that situation.
- When your child comes home Friday or Saturday night at whatever time you establish, get up and give her/him a great big hug. Remember to take a deep breath in mid-hug and be prepared to smell something you don’t want to smell. For most of you, this will not be a problem, but you would be surprised how many times you will smell something, and then be faced with a decision on what to do.
- I know it may be difficult, but try to have dinner as a family once or twice a week. Don’t accept silence. Ask about school, life, sports, music, friends, and keep on asking until a conversation begins.
Think of something simple that you can do with just one child and make your way through all of them over a month. Take a walk on the beach. Take a bike ride. Get a cup of coffee together, etc. You are creative. You will think of something. It is not so much what you choose, but that each child gets alone time with you.
- When you are at a party with people who don’t have any children at the high school, resolve to bring up something about the high school or a student or a team that you know is outstanding. Maybe pick something that I have written about in my monthly messages. Let everyone in town know what an extraordinary school this is, and what great kids come here every day.
I will stop my suggested list of New Year’s resolutions at this point. None of these suggestions will improve your health, take off weight or build muscle. But they will all improve someone’s life, strengthen relationships, make you happy, and/or help the high school in some way.
Thank you in advance. Happy New Year!