Hug Your Kids

Michael JacksonWhen your child reaches the teenage years it may seem like he or she doesn’t want the physical and emotional affection of mom or dad. But perhaps more than any time in their life, a teenager needs to experience the love of his or her parents.

An extraordinarily talented 5-year-old boy was rehearsing with his four brothers. The singing brothers were practicing for an upcoming TV special. Their father was guiding them through a number and the boys weren’t getting their parts just right. The little 5-year-old wanted a clarification so he addressed his father. “Daddy,” he began. But instantly his father interrupted him and sternly stated “I’m not your father now, I’m your manager and don’t you ever forget it.” And little Michael Jackson never did.

A few years before Michael’s death, he was speaking to some 800 students at Oxford University. He was promoting his newly-formed foundation, “Help the Children.” About fifteen minutes into his presentation he began to weep almost uncontrollably. After a few minutes he regained his composure and seemingly out of nowhere said, “I just wanted a dad. I wanted a father to show me love. But I never once heard my father say, ‘Michael, I love you.’”

More than fortune or fame; more than peer acceptance or anything else your kids could dream for, they want to know you are there for them with “unconditional love.” No, you don’t toss out the rules or lower the boundaries of protection. They need the boundaries to feel secure. But they need those rules and boundaries within the context of your loving relationship. The power of your love toward them will be the motivating factor to make the right moral choices.

When you finish reading these words, go to your child or teenager and surprise them with a hug. As you wrap your arms around them let them hear your words, “I love you.” And then commit to letting them see your love modeled before them every day. As you do, you will be convincing their emotions that you are there for them with an “unconditional love.” Your loving relationship can empower them to believe right, embrace the right values, and live right. That is the power of love.

The Effect of Legalizing Marijuana on Our Teens

UnknownOver the last several months I have had so many teachers, parents and students ask my thoughts on the affects marijuana will have on teens now that it is becoming legal.   Here are my thoughts.  Eight states have recently legalized recreational marijuana use for adults over age 21. Some might see this as a progressive step forward, but in truth, it’s a major setback for teenagers and the future of our Country.

The effects of both legal and illegal marijuana use are impacting youth in America in a major way. Substance abuse experts already see a correlation between the legalization of marijuana in these states and increased use among teens.  Studies have shown that even before these laws were in effect, teens were abusing this drug at a high rate: two-thirds of first-time marijuana users are under the age of 18, and one in six teens who tries marijuana becomes addicted to it.

Our culture glamorizes drug use in movies, in music and on television. Teens are bombarded with these messages, and the devastating consequences of marijuana use are almost never portrayed. Now, several other states are considering following this trend in legalizing marijuana.

While some might say that legalizing marijuana gets it out of the hands of unscrupulous dealers, and therefore protect teens, we should all know better. Creating a culture more tolerant of drug use makes drug use more “acceptable” in the minds of teens. In fact, Colorado is among the states with the highest teen marijuana abuse and usage is increasing while the perception of risk is falling.

We need to help our teens understand that marijuana use isn’t glamorous, and it isn’t safe. Not only are there risks to their health and brain development, but driving a vehicle under the influence of marijuana can be just as a dangerous as a driving drunk.

Besides, why would we want to send a message to a generation ripe with potential that getting hooked on a chemical is an okay thing? We are talking about the future leaders of our nation. All of the “Just say no!” messages fly out the window when we make laws that say, “Well, this particular drug is okay.”

Marijuana takes away motivation and passion for life and for work. When is the last time you heard of any great inventions coming out of Amsterdam, where pot has been legal for a generation?

Do we want an addicted generation? Or do we want a generation that values a sober mind and responsible behavior? The teenagers of our nation are yearning for more from life. They crave a meaningful life. Instead of pushing a message that tells them “life is hard, so ease it with a drug,” let us instead inspire them to take on the challenges of life with ingenuity, creativity and dedication.

 

Substance Abuse And Our Young People

Substance Abuse YouthThere was a time in cinematic history where virtually every actor/actress was portrayed on screen with a cigarette in hand. Smoking, it was implied, was cool. As a result everyone was doing it, including kids. Well, as awareness to the danger of smoking increased, “cool” images of smoking disappeared. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about drugs and alcohol. These vices are staples in everyday media. Simply, drinking and using drugs is shown as being cool.

The numbers bear the tale. 21% of high school seniors say they get high and 41% of the same group report drinking alcohol. Our kids are literally moving around in an intoxicated daze. Immature behavior is then amplified due to being under the influence, drunk driving, poor grades and attendance, anti-social and violent behavior and the list goes on.

There is no single age group of people more affected by alcohol and drugs than young people.  Nationwide, alcohol and drugs affect each and every one of us, directly or indirectly:  in our homes, in our families, in our school, in our dorm, in our community, town or city.

More than 23 million people over the age of 12 are addicted to alcohol and other drugs affecting millions more people — parents, family members, friends and neighbors.  For some, one time or infrequent use of alcohol or drugs can result in tragedy: alcohol overdose (alcohol poisoning), an accident or fall when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or an arrest associated with alcohol or drugs that may cost you your reputation and/or your freedom. For others, even though they may not use alcohol or drugs, they could become a victim of an alcohol or drug-related crime. And, for yet others, what may have started as occasional use can turn into an addiction that presents extraordinary health concerns with potentially grave and tragic consequences.

The age of first use has tremendous consequences. Using alcohol and drugs before the brain has fully developed increases your risk for future addiction to alcohol and drugs dramatically. Young people who start drinking alcohol before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence than people who first used alcohol at age 21 or older. Research for drug use and drug addiction has found similar results.

Family history plays a huge role in addiction . Whether a person decides to use alcohol or drugs is a choice, influenced by their environment: peers, family, and availability. But, once a person uses alcohol or drugs, the risk of developing alcoholism or drug dependence is largely influenced by genetics. Plain and simple, people’s bodies respond to the effects of alcohol and drugs differently.  If you have a family history of alcoholism or addiction, you are four times more likely to develop a problem.

The bottom line is no one has ever won the game against alcohol and drugs. It always wins. Whether you recover or not, the damage has been done to yourself, your family, and friends. The best advice, stay away from it.

 

 

 

Are Successful People Made or Born?

Made Not BornThere is no question in my mind that most successful people are made and not born. It has always amazed me how some of the most successful people of all time have gone through, overcome and survived serious obstacles in life before they succeeded. That is the reason I’ve given my life to reaching this generation of students with a message of character, leadership, and faith. You see, many people today have bought into the stereotype that most teenagers are messed up, beyond reach and headed down a wrong path that cannot be corrected. I completely disagree with this assumption.  Why? Because over the last 15 years I have listened to thousands of stories from young people that have found hope through my personal experiences and have chosen to take responsibility for their own lives and not let excuses keep them from being the success they were created to be.

For example, last month in Michigan after speaking in a high school assembly a young man asked me if he could talk with me in private. He started off by telling me that he came to school so depressed that he didn’t feel like living anymore. I asked him why and he immediately opened up. He told me how his life changed when he was nine years old and his father was sentenced to 6 years in prison for drug trafficking. He shared how his mom was never the same after that – “she was always depressed.”  When he was ten, he walked in the house after school and found his mother in the living room with a gunshot wound to her head. She had decided that the pressure of life was too much and killed herself. He said he had been living with his aunt for the past five years and just figured he would turn out like his mom or dad.

Then, he looked me in my eyes and told me that his life changed that day in my assembly. He said that listening to my story caused him to realize that regardless of how bad things have been, if you have breath in your lungs, there’s still hope.  I’ll never forget the look of strength on his face when he told me that he wasn’t going to give up and that he was going to go to college, earn a degree, and make something of himself. That’s why, I believe successful people are MADE not born.  The fact that this young man is determined not to give up makes him a success!