Family Magazine

Doing The Right Thing

By Joanigeltman @joanigeltman
A parent wrote to me the other day, to tell me a story about her teen son, and asked if I would write about it. Here is what she wrote:
"My son is a sports kid gets along with his peers and stays out of trouble (so far). He takes it very personally when he sees someone doing something wrong especially when it comes to unsportsmanlike conduct. He seems to internalize it even if it isn't directed towards him  (directed to a friend or to someone who didn't do anything to deserve it). 
During a game a couple of kids on his team wanted to retaliate against the opposing team (who was winning) by playing dirty and making illegal plays. My son spoke up and said (what we've always told him) hit em harder during the play & play clean. Needless to say his teammates had a field day with that calling him a goody two shoes. He brushes it off when he's with other kids but he will come home and while explaining it he'll tear up a little so it's really bothering him and I'm not sure my explanations are still helping. What can I say to him? How can I keep his good morals in tact while not giving him advice that might interfere with the normal behavior of a kid his age? And not make him get picked on for standing his moral ground? What advice can I give him to deal with that in the future?" God it's hard to be a teen. Clearly this guy has internalized all his parents have taught him about fair play, and standing up for the "right thing."  And instead of being rewarded by a slap on the back by his teammates, he is made to fell like a "goody two shoes."  A small percentage of teens might be able to shrug off this kind of attack from friends. But honestly, not many. Most teens are plagued with paralyzing bouts of ego-crushing self consciousness. This is a time-limited disease, cured by time-released confidence that grows with each year of adolescence.  This teen took an emotional risk. When his teammates called him a goody-two shoes, it hurt, it hurt bad. Does this mean you should counsel your teen to keep their mouth shut in light of injustice. Absolutely not. The bad news, is that other teens don't want to deal with their own conflict of what is right or wrong, and will lash out at others who make them look in the mirror. The good news is that by the next day, everybody has moved on, except that teen who stood his ground. And that is the counsel parents can give this boy. " You know honey, what you did was amazing. And your teammates didn't want to look in the mirror you put in front of them, and lashed out at you. It sucks that they treated you that way, but truly by tomorrow they will have moved on, and forgotten the whole incident. Saying and doing the right thing is not easy, and I can guarantee you that this will happen again with these guys. I get it feels bad, but you are a strong kid, and I know you'll be fine in the long run. You always have a choice, you can say something, or not say something. Either way you know inside what is right. And that is the most important. Some days you'll feel strongly to set these guys straight, and some days you may feel you are not up to the harassment, and that is fine." Parents are sponges for all the bad feelings they see their teen dealing with. You feel their hurt, the injustices done to them, as if they were done to you. Your teens are more resilient than you think. Unless they are in a situation where they are being bullied relentlessly, most teens will be fine. They will feel bad, real bad, but they will move on. This is how resilience is built that will last a lifetime. Resilience is a survival skill that everyone needs as they move into adulthood. You can't protect your teen from hurt, but you can be their shoulder to cry on, and the belief and confidence in their ability to handle pain.

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