Every year, educators talk about budget cuts and their school’s inability to do what’s necessary to equip students for life after graduation. As I have frequently stated, teachers are heroes, and I recognize there’s never quite enough money to do what’s necessary to prepare our emerging adults. Preparedness actually costs quite a bit.
There is a form of preparedness, however, that has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with the price tag attached to genuinely preparing young adults for the world into which they will soon graduate. I actually don’t think it’s a money problem. For both parents and educators, I think we’re often unwilling or unable to pay the price it takes in other ways. Here are six big price tags we must be willing to pay:
1. You must have insight and foresight.
The first price tag is taking time to spot their strengths and weaknesses to see what areas they’ll need to grow in to be ready. This requires careful observation. Then, we need the foresight to envision what they’ll need down the road to make it as an adult. This requires perspective and experience. All of this means investing energy.
2. You must exhibit courage to have emotional conversations.
I just had an emotionally expensive conversation with a twenty-something. She has neglected to budget her money well, and over-spends her salary regularly. Then, she calls others for help. I’ve found it’s much easier to just give her $100 than to have the emotional conversation needed to explain why it’s not wise to keep giving her money. It’s harder to train a young adult than to simply give them what they want.
3. You must be able to face being disliked and misunderstood.
Along the way, if you’re going to prepare them for the future, you will likely make them angry with you. You’ll have to say “no,” “wait,” “here’s why you can’t do that” or “here’s why you must learn to do this.” You’ll be leading them down difficult paths. They won’t appreciate you in the moment, and they may even hate you for a while. Are you OK with that?
4. You must spot environments for them to experiment in growth.
Young people don’t grow through mere lectures or even watching videos. Ultimately, they need to try new things. I believe humans are like rubber bands — we are only useful when we are stretched. This means we need to create or identify places that are safe for them to try and fail and to apply what they think they know. They need a lab, not just a lecture. This can be laborious, but I’ve found it is always worth it.
5. You must invest time — a lot of it.
Preparing them for responsible adulthood doesn’t happen overnight. It requires patience on our part and hours of forgiving, correcting, comforting, explaining and guiding. Often, we just don’t have the time, or won’t take the time to do this. We’re too busy or preoccupied with our own stuff. For us, time is more valuable than money — and it’s just too costly to spend it. Do you have time?
6. You must demonstrate your faith in them.
Finally, you can’t prepare them well if you don’t display a belief in their potential. They can spot it if you don’t really think they can do it. In fact, this shows up when we do things for them. Think for a moment: when we cover for them, we scream, “You obviously can’t pull this off on your own. Let me do it for you.” This is the ultimate insult. It makes them risk averse.
I spent an hour on the phone last week with a young adult who did not understand why I would not do something for him. He knew I could do it — but I knew if I did, he’d never learn to do it himself. We both cried. It was the most difficult discussion I’ve had this year. As we hung up the phone, I was sure he not only misunderstood my action, but probably now hated me. I am fairly certain, however, that he will appreciate me years from now. In the end, I am investing for his successful future, not my popular present. How will you spend your time and energy? Are you willing to pay these price tags?
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