Nathan Hulls is not your average young adult. He marches forward with a life mission and that is to engage, inspire, and empower teens. As a youth motivational speaker, he brings a breath of fresh air to the classrooms he visits. And he has a thing or two to say about what’s really bothering teens.
In his article, The Three Biggest Problems Teenagers Face And What To Do About Them, he points out that those problems are not what we think. Sure, do a search on the Internet for teen problems and you’ll see: teen depression, drugs, smoking, binge drinking, homelessness, ADHD, anxiety, and more. But you’ll have a hard time finding what is really at the root of the suffering many teens experience.
Hulls says that the three real issues for teens are their self-esteem, self-belief, and self-love. He points out that the media continues to bombard teens with the message that they are not enough. They are too fat, too short, too skinny, too tall, etc. Television and movies frequently send the message that we need to be forever reaching for an ideal standard that most people, especially teens, just can’t reach. Having the thought of not being good enough, smart enough, or attractive enough can eat away at a teen over time. In fact, many adults today have suffered from this chronic negative thinking. In the end, both teens and adults hold onto these beliefs without ever really knowing it. Yet, the effects of this dysfunctional thought system are seen in almost every aspect of life – poor grades, little money, few relationships, jobs that don’t reflect the value of their skills, etc.
Self-esteem is the way that a person holds him or herself, the image of him or herself. Esteem simply means respect and admiration, and so, self-esteem is the way a person feels about him or herself – with our without esteem, with or without respect. As a parent or caregiver, you have the power to curb this pattern of chronic thinking. As a caregiver, you have the ability to instill in teens new thoughts, new messages, and new ways of holding their self-esteem.
Of course, one obvious way to do this is to look for the good in your child. Instead of seeing the A he should have gotten, praise him on the B that he did get. Instead of seeing the marks that your daughter got on her term paper, praise her for researching and completing the paper in the first place. The emphasis on what he or she is doing well can help those positive behaviors grow. Although it might be apparent that praising your child can significantly support his or her positive sense of self, it’s easy to get caught up in the tasks of the day, chores and responsibilities, and the to-do list. For some parents, it’s easy to forget that relationships come first, and with that, seeing what your child did right instead of what he or she didn’t do can have significant impact on how she feels about her life.
Also, parents and caregivers can empower their teens by reminding them that they are the ones that have control over their lives. Even though children are taught to rely upon their parents, their teachers, and peers for outside approval, in the end, each teen is the powerhouse for their own life. As Hulls puts it, “The mind is the engine room for the results we see in life.” And he points back to a popular therapy technique used to treat teen depression, anxiety, and PTSD, among a host of other teen mental health illnesses. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, he says, suggests that what we think and believe determines what we feel, which determines how we act.
Although there are many problems that teens face, such as those mentioned at the start of this article, they are rooted problems with their self-esteem, self-belief, and self-love. It’s up to adults to help teens change that!
Hulls, N. (2014). The 3 Biggest Problems Teenagers Face AND What To Do About Them. Retrieved on July 15, 2014 from www.nathanhulls.com