Reading Sherri's blog and comments made by readers stimulated my thoughts about our teens and the values and observations they have. Observing our behaviors and our values impacts our children and how they value other people, objects, and themselves. We model for them what is important. And the words we say do not always match our behaviors.
I was talking to a teen one day who told me "It is important to win no matter what." He talked about how he does not mind hurting people who he is competing against in athletic events. Upon further discussion, he revealed how he learned from his parents that "winning is everything" and that "people don't matter." He could remember many conversations he had overheard between his parents in which he heard them talking about how they would work at making themselves look better to bosses as a way to get a raise or better positions. He began to develop a framework that people are not important but success is.
I talked to another teen who talked about a completely different way in which she thought about people. Her comment was that people and your relationship with those people were very important; more important than winning. She discussed watching her parents help people who were their friends and church members. She could remember at holiday times watching her parents find ways to help people who were less financially fortunate than their family. She then talked about how in high school she had worked to develop assistance for children who were hospitalized as a way to reach out to others.
What did each of these teens have in common? Both had learned how to think about and interact with people based upon listening and observing their parents. So many things we say and do are observed and used by our children to help them develop their value system and world view.
I like to think that hopefully we are paying it forward with our teens - that something they learned from us may be beneficial in helping others.