Where have you learned what you know about parenting? From your own parents? From books you’ve read? From friends? From parenting classes? We tend to get useful information on parenting from a variety of sources in our lives. But who would think that reality TV juggernaut could teach us anything about parenting?! A few weeks ago, I certainly wouldn’t have said so!
However, it occured to me over the last few weeks, as my daughter and I watched the auditions together, that there was a very important lesson in all this for parents of teenagers. As one hopeful teen after another came out to sing for the judges and was rejected, I found myself asking “Who on earth told this kid that he/she could sing?!”
The answer, at least for some of the teens, was: their parents. Parents who had accompanied their teens to auditions would be waiting outside those doors, many disbelieving that their son or daughter had not been selected to go to Hollywood. Some even tried to persuade judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul that they had made a mistake-that their teen was really a wonderful singer.
For some of these teens, obviously, this was a very big deal. Despite terrible auditions, they were devastated when they were not chosen to go on. They sobbed, begged and pleaded for another chance. They made excuses for why their auditions had gone so badly-they were really nervous, they had had colds, etc., etc.-one contestant even protesting that it was the bare floor which had made her sound so bad (she was just as bad on the carpet)!
I can’t help thinking that some of the parents of these teenagers have been overzealous in supporting their kids’ ambitions. Should you support your teen? Yes. Absolutely! Should you support them in aspiring to a career in a field for which they do not have what it takes to make it? No. Look at it this way. If your teenage daughter barely makes it through math classes with help from tutors, would you tell her to consider a career in accounting? No. If your son is a couch potato who is clumsy as well, would you tell him he could make it in pro basketball? Probably not. If your child dreams about being a writer, but uses paper writing services, such as best writing for lab-report students, is there actually a possibility that they are good at what they are dreaming of?
In our entertainment-saturated culture, many teenagers aspire to be celebrities. They want to be the next Britney Spears, the next Lindsay Lohan, the next Justin Timberlake-the next American Idol. They want it so much that they forget that they must have a certain amount of talent to get there.
We all want to support and encourage our teens to be the best they can, to do the best they can. We want them to have a life that they enjoy. But what we shouldn’t do is lie to them. Don’t tell your son he’s a great basketball player if he can’t make a free throw to save his life. Don’t tell your daughter that she sings great if she can’t carry a tune. Basically, don’t give them false hopes.
You don’t have to be as harsh with your comments as Simon Cowell! Just remember to compliment and support your teens’ strengths, rather than their weaknesses. Help them develop interests at which they have real talents. Encourage them to explore new areas and find new interests. Teach them to set goals which are attainable.
Teens’ lives will contain disappointments and setbacks. Don’t help set them up for more disappointments if they have no chance of succeeding. And another thing: teach them to accept criticism and disappointment with grace and dignity. That’s an important life lesson for all of us.
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