A few months ago, I was invited to speak to all the 6th-12th graders at chapel for a local private school. I decided to share with you here what I spoke about because I think this is a conversation every parent needs to have with their adolescent regarding patience, work ethic and perseverance when it comes to what they want to “be” one day.
There’s no doubt about it- we now live in an on-demand, instant gratification, click-a-button and get-what-you-want-right-away culture. The difference between us (the parents) and today’s adolescents, is that we experienced the reality of the old adage “good things come to those who wait” and we knew through everyday life experiences that certain things we wanted took time to get. We still remember a time when we had to wait all week to see an episode of our favorite TV show, and if we couldn’t watch it when in aired, we better know how to program the VCR and hope no one messed it up! If we loved a new song and didn’t want to buy to whole album on CD or cassette tape, we would wait by radio for it to play so we could hold down that play and record button on our boom box …. okay, okay, these are just silly examples, but they make a point. In general, we had to wait and work for things we wanted. No one really had to teach us these things, it was just the way life worked. That isn’t really the case anymore.
The reality is, no generation has had to do less “waiting and working” for things they want than this one. It’s not their fault – this is the culture they are growing up in. But as parents, I think there is a burden on us to help our kids understand that some things life are not acquired quickly or easily, and if they are, they generally aren’t authentic and rarely can last.
Let me explain…
I had a conversation with one of my boys recently about the concept of “working and waiting” for the better thing vs. trying to have what you want immediately and compromising to get it. He had a great illustration for this: he shared with me a “struggle” he was having in making a decision regarding waiting. You see, we had some leftover pizza and he was really hungry one day after school and wanted to heat it up. The dilemma was that he could either heat it up in the microwave and have it now, but the crust would not be very good, or he could put it on the pizza stone in the oven, which would take about 15-20 minutes but it would come out as good and crispy as the first time. He was right! Life is a lot like leftover pizza. There are a lot of things, that we want NOW, because we know they will be good, and we want what we want, and we want it now. However, when we rush things and try to get them too quickly, they are not as good as they were originally intended and we are left with an undesirable result. Good things take time and many times the things that are gotten too easily aren’t even the real thing and we make us regret not being more patient and putting in more effort to hold out for the real thing.
There are 3 areas of life that I see many adolescents trying to skip the “wait and work” process and want to happen quickly and easily: becoming “successful” or influential, overcoming challenges, and relationships. In this post we will cover the first one. Check back next week for part two where I will cover the other two. Subscribe so you don’t miss it!
- Working and Waiting for Success and Influence
But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.
I think most people would say they want to be successful at the things they do, and most people want to know that what they do matters. We see someone who is famous, or achieving great things in their field, or someone who has a lot of influence and we think, “Hey, I want that!” But what we don’t see is what it took for them to get to that level. Most of us see the results, but not all the hard stuff.
People who are really good at what they do make it look easy…..but they have actually worked really hard to get where they are.
I talk to teenagers and their parents a lot and almost every week I hear someone say that their goal in life to be famous, to be a social media influencer, to be a professional athlete or to be a You Tuber. Yes parents, being a “you tuber” is “a thing” these days that people actually do to make money. It really isn’t that different from the days when my friends and I at different ages wanted to be on The Micky Mouse Club, or to be MTV VJs , or Solid Gold Dancers! Part of the fun of childhood is dreaming about what we want to do when we grow up. As our children grow and mature; however, we must help them identify their gifts, talents and passions and help them discover their God-given calling so they can pursue that – not just easy money and fame. That’s not to say that their talent and passions can’t or shouldn’t lead to fame and fortune – it just might! The question is, how hard are they willing to work for their dream? Do they want it because it seems quick and easy, or is it something they are willing to sacrifice, work, train and wait for? This is the difference between a childhood fantasy and a passion. A childish fantasy is just wanting the glory and the outcome without the work to get there or having an real passion and skill to offer. I am not suggesting we squash our kids’ dreams. What I am suggesting is that we ignite their God-given talents, passions and resources and encourage them to work hard at those things regardless of the outcomes. The idea is basically this: plow your field and trust God to bring the rain.
A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty.
The trustworthy person will get a rich reward, but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble.
I grew up in Southern California, and I too, thought that I wanted to be an actress at one point. So maybe I understand their childish thinking a bit more than some. Fame and money for doing something fun sounds like a pretty good deal to a kid. From their point of view, the fame and fortune and accolades and glamorous lifestyle sound a bit more appealing than the grind of a 9 to 5. (Which brings up a side_note, parents: if you seem unhappy, burned out and stressed a lot about marriage, raising kids, serving at church, your career, etc… don’t be surprised that your kids want none of that. If your life seems mundane and difficult, why would they want to repeat it? Your modeling of joy and contentment is paramount! )
I remember once listening to a famous actor speaking to students. He said that fame was never his goal. He loved his craft and worked at his craft. He spent many years being broke and working side jobs and doing community theater and commercials and being rejected and barely getting by. He said if fame had been the driving force he never would have made it. Fame and influence was just a by-product of getting really good at something he loved to do, and working really hard for many years at it. Not to mention the dark side and price of fame, which is something to discuss with your kids as well.
It is important for us to teach our kids to think biblically about their lives:
to find a calling and a passion and pursue that, instead of the lure of easy money and fame.
Having a strong work ethic, and spending years getting really good at something, is something you can be proud of, regardless of the outcome. Maybe God will bless your kids with influence and success with what they pursue, and maybe He won’t, but doing something that they enjoy, doing something that adds value to the world, and working hard toward a goal will be much more fulfilling in the long-run.
“People don’t understand that when I grew up, I was never the most talented, I was never the biggest, I was never the fastest, I certainly was never the strongest. The only thing I had was my work ethic, and that’s been what has gotten me this far.”
See, in this on-demand world, our kids want it now and many truly believe that they deserve to have success and fame and influence even if they don’t have talent or have never done anything to achieve that. They don’t want to work hard and long for something, because they have grown up in a world where people have gotten rich and famous for doing nothing (or even worse – for doing something shameful and immoral – believing the lie that the ends justify the means). Many kids I speak to mention goals like this:
- I want to post videos on YouTube and get 1 million views aka I want to be a “You Tuber”.
- I want to tweet something relate-able that will go viral so I can have more followers and maybe get a check mark and look successful.
- I want more likes on my Instagram pictures to and to be known as a celebrity (this is literally known as being “insta-famous” the irony!)
- I just want to be famous and rich
Parents, our kids desperately need to know that real success takes time and effort. It can’t be dialed up and demanded and success is not measured in likes and followers.
It takes about 10 years of doing something to be an expert at it. If your kids want to pursue something, help them understand that slow and steady wins the race. They need to work at it, and be patient. They should pray and seek God to see what talents, resources and passions He has given them that might be revealing what He has called them to do with their life and then pursue those with passion and dedication.
We also need to help them understand that with influence and power comes responsibility. If God does give them success, how will they use their platform and influence to further His kingdom? This isn’t a suggestion, as a Christ-follower, it is a mandate.
Any influence God gives you is not so YOU can be served, but so you can serve Him and the people around you.
Next post we will talk about how this applies to challenges and relationships.