Parenting Podcast: Does Your Teen Need a Tutor in “Integrity?”
As someone who works closely with kids and teens, I often speak with teens who can’t decide whether to spend their summers interning at a large corporation or doing service work in some exotic locale. Usually, indecision comes from trying to anticipate which experience would look better on a college application. Just recently in a nearby town on Long Island, the media pounced on the news that some teens were hiring a college student to take their SATs. These kids aren’t criminals or juvenile delinquents. They are young people who caved to the pressure of achieving “success” no matter the cost.In this week’s parenting podcast, Wendy Grinberg asks Dr. Denise Pope of Challenge Success if kids are having trouble prioritizing values. Dr. Pope explains that the high achieving teens she studied were clear they are doing something wrong, but they felt the consequences would be too great if they failed. They judged their parents’ reactions and concluded that their parents would be more disappointed in them if they didn’t get the best grade than if they cheated. Sometimes we need this kind wakeup call to remind us that what matters isn’t a letter grade or a number or a name of a prestigious college, but the journey and what we learn along the way. It’s not where we go that matters; it’s how we behave as we get there.Dr. Pope says that if parents’ actions were in line with the values they espouse, they’d hire “tutors in integrity” for their kids. Look no further than your synagogue’s youth group! There you will likely find an advisor who cares about your child and is committed to leading them along a path of integrity and values. And when your teen stumbles, which inevitably they do (and that’s OK), we don’t give them a failing grade. We help them up. We talk with them and help them learn from their mistakes. It’s about the journey.Not every one of the teens I work with is going to be able to lead a youth group board meeting, and not every one of them is going to be great at working the room and making the new kids at the event feel welcome. Everyone has different strengths. As youth advisors we recognize that and accept it. We meet kids where they are and try to lead them forward as much as we can, but we don’t force them into being something they’re not.Dr. Pope quotes Dr. Madeline Levine saying, “Love the child before you,” and Rabbi Karlin-Neumann cites the Torah text describing everyone in the community “from the hewer of wood to the drawer of water” (Deuteronomy 29:11). I have a magnet on a filing cabinet near my desk that reads “Be yourself. There is something you can do better than any other. Listen to that inward voice and bravely obey that.” These statements all remind me that our kids and teens each have a special gift to share with the world, and it’s our job to help them discover it. That’s how we should define success.
Alison Schulman is the Youth Director of Temple Sinai of Roslyn in Roslyn Heights, NY.