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Ten Lessons I Want to Teach My Teens Before They Leave Home

teens need to know

In these last years where you will be under my roof and under my rules, I want to make sure you have mastered the following habits. I know you get tired of my incessant requests, reminders, and demands when it comes to these things, but if you learn them well, I will have done my job successfully.

Sit up straight.

Let’s get this one out of the way, shall we? You hunch. You hunch all. The. Time. You hunch over your phone, over your food, over your homework and I cringe every time I see this. You may think I’m just being a nag, but I assure you, this will create serious problems later on in life. Please heed my wisdom on this or you will be hunched over in your 20’s, 30’s, and forever. No one likes a young huncher and you won’t like the chronic pain that goes along with it. Your spine will thank me. Promise.

Say “please” and “thank you” every single time.

No matter who you are talking to or what you are doing, this will never ever get old. Every single time someone does something for you, every single time you ask for anything, “Please” or “Thank you” should come out of your mouth without even thinking. It is a manner expected of nice people. It makes for you to be nice people.

Look people in the eye every time you speak.

I know this is so hard for you to do. It’s awkward. I get it. But here’s the thing: Eye contact is key to connecting and communicating with another person. It is also a critical sign of respect. It shows that the person you are interacting with is heard, seen, and valued enough to get your full attention. When you don’t look at someone when they are talking to you, it reflects otherwise.

Ask for forgiveness.

A quick “I’m sorry” is good, but a more intentional “Will you forgive me?” is better. Here’s the difference: “I’m sorry” is a statement rather than an offer. Asking forgiveness empowers the offended you hurt with a choice- to accept your apology or not. This takes humility and compassion on your part both which are necessary in order to accept responsibility for a mistake you made and the consequences that resulted from it. (Don’t forget to use eye contact when you do this!)

Pick up after yourself.

If you train yourself to pick up your things as you go, this habit will surely make every living condition you find yourself in SO. MUCH. BETTER. And cleaner. You could care less about the mess you leave behind, but guess what? It’s disrespectful to those who share living space with you. You have experienced the consequence of not picking up after yourself, and let’s agree that it’s helluva harder than if you just did it as you went. Learn this lesson now. You’ll thank me later and so will anyone who lives with you.

Be assertive.

It’s critical to learn how to assert yourself when you feel disrespected, dismissed, or disengaged. There will be times when you need to be heard and understood, and it will often take you having the strength to be uncomfortable and the courage to be stand up to someone and be honest. You may not get the response you wanted, but at least you acted with integrity and you can always live with that.

Be kind to everyone you meet and everyone you don’t.

This means smiling at a cranky old lady who gives you a condemning look. It means not spitting back ugly remarks at another kid’s insults. It means going out of your way to help a disabled person get the door. This is the kind of kind that stretches you out of your comfortable space. It’s the intentional, compassionate, sacrificial kind of kind. Learn it well and you will grow to be a better person.

Take care of yourself.

Don’t sabotage your health with stupid impulsive behaviors that destroy it. Obviously, this means drugs and alcohol, but it also means sleep deprivation, eating crap, stressing out, training too hard, drinking bolt, and any other new age cool trick that promotes good vibes. Remember you have your body for the rest of your life- so be careful with it. You are not invincible. Oh, also? Brush your teeth. Please.

Love who you are.

Doing life is so much easier if you love yourself through it. You will not like everything about yourself, you will want to make improvements and there are some things you will never be able to change. As you get to know who you are through the years, remember you are the only you in this world and you are going to live with yourself for the rest of your life. You will need you to be your own best friend.

Hold on to the keepers.

These are the people who give you gifts of kindness and care. They are the good folks who believe in you, love you through hard times, and accept you for who you are. Be grateful for these gems. Keep them in your life and appreciate them always. You will meet all kinds of people- some negative, some judgmental, some tough to take, and the keepers are the ones to keep.

There are many other important habits I’d love for you to master too, but these? They are vital to your health, your happiness, and your well-being. So, until you fly out of my nest, I’ll be requesting, reminding, and yes, even demanding you practice each one.

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