An Open Letter to Parents of Teens: What We Forget to Teach Our Kids

My concern is that in your heartfelt quest to facilitate your teens' transition from high school to college, you may have a bit of tunnel vision.
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Dear Parents of Teens,

I really need to talk to you today. Please have a seat and spend a few moments with me.

I have not only raised a teen, but I have worked with your teenagers and their friends and peers for more than just a few years. Actually, I have been working with them, listening to them and hearing about them from you for three decades. My hope is always for you and your teens to get along more easily and for the adolescent years to go as seamlessly and swimmingly as possible. I have devoted much of my professional life to this mission.

There are some things that have been glaringly obvious to me over the past decade and I think it is about time for me to talk to you about my concerns. I am well aware that you are all trying your best to ensure that your kids prepare themselves to get into the best colleges possible. I am also very much aware that you make many time and financial sacrifices to get tutors for your kids so that their grades can be as good as possible. It is not lost on me that you drive your kids to various activities so that they can have fun, learn skills and also have the requisite number of extracurricular activities on their college applications. And, if you can't do the driving, you either get your teens cars if they are of age or you arrange for others to drive them. This is no small thing. You are doing the best that you can to try to ensure that your teens have good lives ahead. I know how tired, drained and depleted you get during this process. Nonetheless, you persist. This is honorable.

My concern is that in your heartfelt quest to facilitate your teens' transition from high school to college, you may have a bit of tunnel vision. Let me reiterate that I know how much you love and care about your kids. Here is what I am concerned about though.

1. There are many high-achieving teens who lack manners. This is not a small matter. I am quite sure that prior to this decade, there was a bit less emphasis on academic achievement and more on teaching kids about the niceties that will get them far with others. A well-placed 'please' or 'thank you' speaks volumes about your teen's character. Don't you think so? I, for one, cannot imagine talking with others and leaving out the 'pleases,' 'thank you's' and 'you're welcomes.' How will our kids get hired for good jobs if they are unaware of social etiquette?

This brings me to my second concern:

2. I don't think that we are teaching our teens about the importance of good social etiquette. The importance of a warm greeting, a firm handshake and a smile at the right moment cannot and should not be forgotten. Yes, your child may get into a top-notch college, but without social etiquette, it's less likely he or she will win out over an equally qualified candidate to get the job, the friend or even the date later in life.


3. I am concerned that we have inadvertently raised a group of teens who are more narcissistic and self-involved than teens of prior decades. We all need to teach our teens that they are always part of a community, whether it is a family, peer group, class setting etc. They need to be taught that their individual behavior affects those around them.

I would very much like to hear your thoughts about this. Are we forgetting to raise teens with basic social etiquette and community spirit? Do you agree or disagree with me on this one?

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