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Dr. Deborah Gilboa delivers TEDx Talk on raising kids with good character

According to our National Advisory Board member, Family Physician, Parenting and Youth Development Expert, Dr. Deborah Gilboa (Doc. G) teens today are some of the most innovative, creative, and collaborative people of the modern era. With their potential comes not only great responsibility, but great pressure. In a recent TEDx Talk, Doc. G delves into some of the problems parents create when they focus too much of their attention on the achievement of their child, and how it can negatively impact their child’s character.

Teens today are buried with school related responsibilities that can often impede on downtime they need to stay healthy. I still have nightmares about the student who told me I needed to laminate my flashcards and study in the shower if I were to enroll in a particularly rigorous program at my high school. Youth today are constantly spreading themselves thin, trying to excel in academics, sports, and after-school clubs, while attempting to maintain social relationships, serve their communities, and get adequate sleep.

For young people with still developing brains, these pressures take a greater toll on their bodies than they do on adults. Dr. G explains that stress chemicals ravage the adolescent brain and body. These chemicals hang on longer in the teen brain than in the adult brain, and cause more damage. She also mentions that she has seen a number of parents encourage and pay for their child’s alcohol and/or drug use in order to help them alleviate some of that stress. This, of course, is helping no one.

By attempting to solve their child’s stress problem and keep them happy, these parents are actually encouraging dangerous behavior that could also impact their kid’s character. Dr. G admits it’s easy to fall into theses traps, and addresses the three obstacles many parents face in raising people of good character:

  • Achievement – parents believe their kids can achieve greatness, but not take out the garbage.
  • Happiness – parents do whatever they can to make their kids happy, in turn teaching them to expect nothing less. They become ill-prepared for failure and adult responsibilities.
  • Problem Solving – parents often solve problems for their kids, that they’re capable of solving by themselves.

Instead of offering alcohol as a means of stress relief, parents should talk with their teens about the dangers of underage drinking. Drinking alcohol underage could lead to the derailment of everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve. Instead of allowing them to take the easy way out, open the lines of communication, and encourage teens to find another way to relieve their stress. Alcohol should not be a crutch, especially for someone underage, and teens are capable of finding another coping mechanism.

Parents have the best intentions, and should always do everything in their power to support their children’s goals and dreams. However, when they attempt to solve problems for their kids, by giving them a beer to manage their stress, or letting them skip out on family chores, they’re actually doing them a disservice. Dr. G asserts that it is time for parents to step back and give teens the accountability and respect they deserve. Most of the time, the best thing to offer is a listening ear.

Helen joined the team as Educational Programs Associate in the winter of 2016. In this role, she supports Responsibility.org program efforts through research and building stakeholder participation particularly to reach teachers, parents and students.

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