Friday, August 21, 2009

The Bus is Here and I Can't Pry My Child Off My Leg!

Identifying Symptoms of School Phobia

Written By:
Aaron Welch, MA, LMHC, PC

Most parents can remember the traumatic and extremely emotional “first day of school” for their children. This moment in life is difficult for everyone involved; the parent, because it means that their little baby is growing up, and the child, because they have never been away from mom and dad like this before. The child is entering an unknown world, full of strangers (and aren’t they taught to not talk to them), adults who look scary, and a new set of rules and expectations. This day is also difficult for the teachers, as they must manage an entire class of emotional and fearful children. Even the bus drivers sometimes feel pressure as dad and mom follow them all the way to school to make sure that he/she is not a driving maniac. Yes, the first day of school can be very difficult for all of us…but what if the child is 14? Or 16? Or 18? What if the first day of school becomes an issue every year?

Believe it or not, going back to school always has some fear attached to it, but for some children, the fear is excessive enough to qualify as School Phobia or Social Phobia. For some, the idea of a seventeen-year-old young man crying because he has to go back to school at the end of the summer break might be humorous. But, for teenagers dealing with these overpowering emotions, there is nothing funny about it.

School Phobia is an active member of the Anxiety Disorder family. Unfortunately, anxiety disorders seem to be growing in frequency for children of all ages. Whether life is becoming too fast and stressful, or if it is the result of a breakdown in the family system, we don’t know for sure . But the truth is that lots of children are showing more signs of anxiety than ever before. One of these anxiety disorders is called Separation Anxiety, in which a child shows an excessive fear of leaving the home or of being apart from someone they are very attached to emotionally. School Phobia is like an extension of Separation Anxiety and even Social Phobia, where a child has great feelings of fear when in a social environment. Unfortunately, schools seem to be having increased cases of truancy and absenteeism and it also seems like more students are open to dropping out of school than ever before. Of course there is more than one factor to account for this but School Phobia has to be one that is considered.

There are many symptoms of school phobia:
- Refusing to go to school
- Frequent complaints of physical ailments such as headaches or stomach aches.
- Clingy behavior towards parents
- Depressed attitude about school
- Poor hygiene or appearing “disheveled”
- Fear of something bad happening to them or to parents
- Sleep difficulties
- A drop in grades
- Skipping class or skipping school
- Unrealistic or excessive fears of burglars, dark, or animals

This list is not exhaustive but will hopefully be a starting point for parents to identify if there is a problem. Another issue to remember is that major life stressors can lead to anxiety or school phobia. Children who are dealing with divorce, moving to a new house or school, or grieving the death of a loved one can all be vulnerable to his kind of anxiety.

One thing to remember is that almost all children have some fear about going back to school each year. Most fears are completely normal and tend to fade away after a few weeks. School phobia represents a magnified and continual fear of the school environment. So, what is a parent to do? How do mom and dad reach out and help their child who is struggling with school phobia?

1. Parental involvement is essential: All the counseling and medicine in the world will fall short if the primary caregivers are uninvolved. Here are some basic tips for parents:

A. Security: Anxiety of any kind represents a fear that one is insecure, not safe, not in control or is in danger. It is very important for a parent (or parents) to implement a schedule or a routine for the household. Regular meal times, homework times, play time, and bed times really do mean a lot for every child; but especially a child that suffers from anxiety. This advice may prove challenging for a single parent or a parent who struggles to organize themselves. However, offering security is worth making the effort. A key to this is putting the schedule on paper and following it as often as possible. If this is not an area of strength for you, seek help with it. It means a great deal to the child; it not only helps them feel secure but it also shows that you love them enough to make the effort.

B. Empower them to face their fear. As parents we want to protect our children from harm or even their fear of being harmed. However, with this level of anxiety, the child’s fears are often unrealistic. If we shelter them from fears that aren’t really threats, we are in danger of reinforcing a fear that shouldn’t be a fear at all. Thus, don’t allow them to stay home from school every time they ask. Schools have attendance policies and many students fail because they miss too many days. Parents are not doing their child any favors by excusing those days or allowing their child to miss often for questionable reasons. This only reinforces their fear, because they have not attended school regularly enough to see that the fears are needless. Now, some kids have a good reason to fear school. Perhaps they are being bullied or harassed. This is a different case and should be taken up with school administrators. But when the anxiety is unwarranted, a child must face it. Show your child much love and confidence in them. Then, every day, touch base on how that particular day went. If it was okay, encourage them in it. If the day went badly, then show empathy and encourage them that you’ll keep facing each day together.

2. Seek a counselor who works with children/adolescents. Search for a counselor who loves kids and is comfortable working with them. A counselor can help come along beside the family and face the fears together. A counselor will help to confront the fears and challenge the cognitions behind the fears. The counselor is also an objective helper who is a great support for both parents and children; a teammate who will help the family establish and reach goals in overcoming the anxiety.

3. Medication
When anxiety interferes with a child’s daily functioning, medication may be needed; at least as a bridge to get from point A (stuck in anxiety) and point B (overcoming and coping with anxiety). Ask your counselor for the name of a trusted psychiatrist, who works with children.

Above all, pray for your child and love them with all your heart. Remember to put God first in your family and teach that to your children.

School is always a bit scary (especially back when spanking was allowed) but it shouldn’t be an issue that paralyzes a child with fear. If you see signs of school phobia in your child, talk to them about their fears and reach out for help.

About the Author: Aaron Welch is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has devoted his life to reaching out and helping people to grow and mature through difficult life situations. Whether it has been through clinical counseling, pastoral ministry, youth camps and conventions, public speaking, leadership training, educational instruction, athletic coaching or small group ministry, Aaron has over eighteen years of experience in assisting people through life struggles and personal growth. His genuine love for people and his outgoing personality combine to create a safe and caring environment for putting the pieces of life back together

Smart School Choice builds Strong Kids

The strategic changes needed to bring out the best in your children

By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

Recently I had dinner with my friends Bill and Nancy Palmer and the subject of school choice came up; mostly because at one time they had each of their five children in five different schools. If you think that schedule sounds crazy, then you’ve never met the five remarkable young adults they raised who have launched successfully out into the world. It was extremely stressful at times to keep things organized but they were committed to building strong kids and were creative enough to always find options to help each child grow in strength and confidence. How did they do it? Simple, they picked the educational experiences that were the best fit for each of their children at each stage of life regardless of convenience.

Many times parents are afraid of school change, or don’t realize they have so many choices available to them in guiding their kids toward their strength zone. First let’s look at what makes a ‘good’ school actually ‘good.’ Since it’s not really one thing it’s a combination of many factors that when combined together can create a learning environment which can brings out the best in your child. Here are some of the most common elements to consider when you begin the process of selecting a school to bring out the best in your son or daughter.

-Key factors of a ‘good’ school

1. Strong parental involvement, as the old saying goes, a school is only as strong as the level of parental support that it receives
2. Clear community support, especially from elected officials
3. Focused school leaders, especially in administrative roles
4. Well structured academic programs to cover different learning styles
5. Committed and caring teachers focused on the needs of their students
6. A safe and secure learning experience
7. Budgets that allow for extra-curricular activities to positively impact multiple areas of development, such as the arts, music, journalism, ROTC, languages and sports
8.Guidance departments focused on a personalized plan to help students achieve who ‘think outside the box’
9. Smart classrooms with access to current and cutting edge computer and Internet technology
10. A learning experience that honors your families faith and values, instead of attacking or shaming your child for holding onto a strong system of faith

Of course any parent would want the best for their children, but it’s been my experience that the word ‘best’ actually floats on many variables through the different stages of childhood. So, since ‘best’ isn’t actually a single school campus this opens the door to explore many experiences that often accelerate the learning environment for the kids who live at your house. This can only happen when you begin to see that the main goal is to find out what needs your the child is facing to then select the school choice that can guide them to a position of greater strength. This just going along with whatever may have worked for your child last year. Remember, a child’s maturity changes year to year, and for many kids this means their academic choices should change with it.

-Chart to solve the confusion of discovering the best schools

Begin to make smart school choices to help your child be their best by building a chart to literally ‘score’ the school options available to your child on a legal pad, running across the top of the page. You should include every option you can think of to do a complete analysis of what is available to your child. Even if you only think that you have one option, really sit down to consider the school choices available to your child in the coming school year. This way you will be able to actually track the metrics to see a visual number at the bottom of the page to see what each school choice brings to the table in best meeting the needs of your son or daughter at any stage of their educational development.

Here’s a sample of how to structure across the top of the page, except it’s more personal and more powerful if you actually place the name of each of the schools you are considering in that particular column, (for instance list out the choices facing your child, like: Orange County High, Mountain Prep, Holy Family, The Community School, Math Magnet Prep, Military Leadership Academy or an online virtual school

Smart School Choice
Public- College Prep- Christian- HomeSchool- Charter- Boarding- Private- Magnet- Military- Online or Virtual School and so on

Once you have created a list across the page of every available option you have available to meet the needs of your child, then it’s time to add the list of variables, (preferably in order of importance to you in meeting the unique needs of your child), to rank or score each school choice against your own personal standard of what’s most valuable to bring out the best in your son or daughter. Create this list on the left margin of your legal pad and include factors like the following.

Smart
School
Choice
Safety
Academics
Teachers
Strong leaders
Involved parents
PTA-PTF groups
Location
Transportation
Costs or tuition
Friends/peers
Fits personality
Fits career goals
Fits academic goals
School size
Well equipped classrooms
Class size to teacher ratio
Campus maintained
Clean school facilities
Hot lunches and cafeteria
Wide range of sports
After school activities
Tutoring- academic help
Music, choirs, band
Fine arts and drama
Bible or faith classes
After school activities or child care
Clubs, FCA, DECA, OJT
School life- socials or proms
Trips- unique learning experiences
SAT or ACT prep classes
Strong guidance department
Tuition assistance programs
Partnerships with community groups
(Boys & Girls Clubs, Scouting, etc)
Partnerships with business groups
(Junior Achievement, career training)

TOTALS


-Stronger scores reveal stronger school choice

Once you have developed your as many categories as fit the unique needs of your child, then it’s time to go back and score each school at the top of the page against your specific priorities listed along the left column on a numerical scale of 10, (best) down to 5 (average) then on down to 1 (terrible).

Be honest and don’t play favorites as you really consider the needs of the students in your family, since this process works from selecting a pre-school all the way to college. Leave any areas blank that are unknown to you, yet since this will greatly reduce the score for that particular school it indicates you need to do more research to create a fair analysis on some of the schools you may have selected for your child.

Another technique you can use is to do a detailed web search about each school, however, I recommend that you take your child with you to preview new schools with you in person. Walk the campus, talk to teachers or other students, or if possible visit the school when it’s in session and ‘shadow’ a host student throughout the day to see what the school culture is really like first hand.

This school choice process can be repeated every year as needed based on the needs of your son or daughter. Add in the maturity level of your child to complete the process of selecting what’s best by identifying where you believe your student to be at during this stage of their academic career.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Child (up to age 13) Teen (13-19) Young Adult (20-25)
Dependent Developing Independent
Irresponsible Growing Responsible
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It is wise to consider the maturity level of your child since some school settings will require a higher level of responsibility or independent decision making. Once you have identified the maturity level then just factor in the scores from your school choice chart to narrow down your search to find the best school. Remember, the higher the score, the more likely that it’s a better fit to help your student to reach their best during this or any school year. Strong students often are able to build strong lives, so the time you take now to guide your children into the best direction, (even if it means making the sacrifice of car-pooling different kids in different directions for several years) will lead to strong and confident young adults for a lifetime, and that’s an excellent trade.


Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2009), To receive this valuable counseling resource every week, visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005 in Winter Park, FL"

About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. He partners with media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture. Access more counseling and coaching resources designed to save you time by solving stressful situations by visiting his counseling blog with over 200 complimentary articles and special reports at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

When should parents begin to let go of their kids?

Managing the change of letting go of children so they can launch into a successful life as young adults

By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

Parents are told to give their children "roots and wings" from the time they are born until it is time to leave the nest, some twenty years later. I believe that the first part comes easier than the second, which may not come at all for some older adolescents these days. Let me explain a few factors to help you understand why some kids never seem to launch into early success as young adults.

Giving a child 'roots' is about shared traditions, Judeo-Christian values, personal accountability to a moral standard of behavior like the 10 commandments or the golden rule as well as providing a safe and loving home environment. I believe that most parents do their best to care and provide for their kids. I also believe that most parents try to build these core values into the heart of their kids which will always show up through their behavior and choices later on in life. If a child knows what they believe they are stronger and more focused to go through the teen years without getting hung up on the distractions and temptations that cause so many to stumble and fall.

Right from wrong is usually easy to spot
Frankly, I don't think most parents really struggle with knowing what they should be doing, because they know what they want their children to learn and if you ask them, they usually have a pretty clear vision of how they want their children to behave. It’s been my experience that most parents do their best to give their kids the strength of being deeply rooted into a personal belief system of some kind, especially in understanding right from wrong and how to respond to the world around them in a reasonable and responsible way.

If they aren't directly building these values into the lives of their kids, they are likely supplementing those values through Sunday school at church, some form of Christian values education (for instance, consider the great programs available through faith based groups like the YMCA), or exposure to positive messages through the entertainment and media they let their kids experience. Giving kids traditional family values will root them into knowing what they believe, but it won't always protect them when they are challenged by their peers as to why they believe it.

Most common fights are about the ‘flight plan’ between parent & child
So, how do you take a child that you have loved, cared for, taken care of and protected for their entire lifetime the right amount of space to 'fly' forward on their own wings? Let me warn you ahead of time, it's often hard to find the right level of balance on this subject and kids and parents often experience their greatest conflict during the teen years trying to figure out just the right level of responsibility and independence for each stage of life! Yet as hard as it may be for parents to even consider letting go of the children that they have invested so much time and energy into, it is essential for the child’s healthy development and inner strength as a person who will one day have to move out and move on as a young adult to tackle issues directly throughout their life without the security of knowing that mom and dad’s watchful care is always going to be near. The goal is for them to know what they believe, and when tested, to pass the test and live out those beliefs in spite of the pressures around them.

Dangerous truth- over-protective parents create weaker kids
Here's why this is such a problem for some loving parents. If you never let a child test their wings by moving a little further away from mom or dad's care, then sometimes they end up developing the symptoms of fear, extreme shyness or a social phobia and end up being afraid of moving forward in life. Not all kids will develop psychological or emotional fears because of overprotective parents, but it can be one of several factors that slows down their personal development and inner strength to move forward toward the next stage of life. Yes, we love our kids, but remember, part of that love is to equip them and prepare them to one day leave the nest to literally launch forward, just like a space shuttle launch sequence at Kennedy Space Center.

Think about all of the years of planning and thousands of challenges that have to be overcome to create a successful launch into space. Literally everything that takes place for the years leading up to a rocket or orbiter launch date is done to safely and strategically accomplish the goal of getting that rocket into space and to another place. That’s the driving force of those NASA engineers- to get that bird off the ground at Cape Canaveral and into orbit toward the stars.

I love the line from the movie, “Astronaut Farmer” (staring Billy Bob Thornton), where the father-in-law tells his wanna-be astronaut son-in-law, “I really respect you son. Most dad’s can’t get their families to share a meal at the table together and you- you’ve got your whole family dreaming together!” The film shows the power of never giving up on a life-long dream of orbiting the earth, and more importantly the courage, patience and teamwork of a whole family coming together to make that dream a reality.

Space flight can be a lot like parenting, we spend years getting them ready to have a successful launch because one day we know that we will have to do a launch sequence to countdown the days as they head out to another stage of life. This is the way that God designed it- kids are supposed to move out and move on to build lives of their own. If overprotective parents stall that process, it scrubs the launch and leaves the child stranded on the launch pad, while their peers are blasting off toward early success in life. No one wins and it often sets the child up for tremendous problems that could have been solved if the parents had taken a different and more directive approach.

Blast off- or blow up?
When kids are well equipped to launch into early success during their young adult years they soar and it’s a joy to watch. If you have ever seen a launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida you know what I mean- words can hardly describe the power and the sheer excitement of knowing that not even gravity can stop that rocket from what it was designed to do- blast off toward the stars! However, when what I’ve been referring to as the parenting ‘launch sequence’ is interrupted by well meaning, (or sometimes fearful) parents they often blow up, because the kids crash in some way. Sadly, these days it seems there are more crashes than successful launches. (And you are probably thinking about someone you know stuck in this painful process right now).

So what to do? Here are some parenting tips to coach you through the process of parenting strategies through every stage of childhood to build strong kids now, so they can one day go out and build successful lives as adults. That’s a parent’s job, to give them the roots of belief and then equip them with the wings of healthy resources to fly.

When this process happens, a child grows through each stage of life with a better experience and then grows stronger from the momentum of moving forward in a powerful way because they were set up to win by parents who weren’t afraid to point them toward the stars and launch into the life that God designed for them to live.

Parenting Stages to build strong kids:
Here are some of the key developmental stages and strategies to guide you toward a successful launch with your child.

Birth to puberty, (ages 0-12)-
Kids need a 'caretaker' who can teach and help with daily tasks and skills while the child gradually is learning these skills from their parent, especially in the important areas of self-discipline and responsibility. Psychologist John Trent calls this process ‘soft love mixed with hard love’, (See “The Two Sides of Love” published by Focus on the Family Publishing, 1999)

Puberty to College Years, (12-21)-
The parenting strategy to use during the teen years is a combination of part counselor and part coach to help guide through the emotional issues of building relationships and dealing with hurt feelings; while balancing the tasks of learning to deal with difficulties in life and making wise educational or career choices.

College years to Adulthood, (21-30)-
I believe that we always need our parents- it’s just that the need changes as we grow older. Little kids need a parent to help with personal hygiene, teens need their parents to help them develop healthy habits and by this stage young adults need honest advice and direction. These years are a great time for the parent/adult-child relationship to prosper since the young adult is out on their own dealing with life, yet still needs a 'consultant' to bounce ideas off of as their build a life independent of their parents to firmly establish a life of their own.

I want you to know that millions of other parents have successfully launched their child from birth toward adulthood and you can too. There is a sign in the launch control room of the Kennedy Space Center that says it well, “It takes a team- to launch a dream.”

Know that you are not alone in this process. There are hundreds of resources available at our website as well as links to dozens of other groups that are driven by the desire to help you experience the great joy of watching a dream take flight, as well as provide the tools and training to help you if you’ve already crashed to get past the nightmare and not be afraid to dream again about what your son or daughter could be when they launch into a life of their own.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2009), To receive this valuable counseling resource every week, visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005 in Winter Park, FL"

About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. He partners with media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture. Access more counseling and coaching resources designed to save you time by solving stressful situations by visiting his counseling blog with over 200 complimentary articles and special reports at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Empowered or Entitled?

Empowered or Entitled?
What Are We Teaching Our Kids?


Let me begin by asking a simple question…



What the HECK is going on??????


Whew…that felt good. I’ve wanted to scream that question (and dozens like it) ever since I began teaching in public education several years ago. Honestly, I almost feel like I fell into a coma over the past fifteen years, only to awaken to an educational system and to a society that gives adolescents the idea that they are entitled to everything whether they have earned it or not.
Where was I when this shift occurred? It’s not as if I spent the last dozen years in isolation, living alone in a cave somewhere. Truthfully, I have never stopped working with adults and teenagers alike as a pastor, coach, and counselor. I don’t think I fell asleep at the wheel and yet I feel like the driver who opens his sleepy eyes to find that he has drifted onto the wrong side of the highway, in oncoming traffic. I am seriously concerned about what our educational system is teaching our adolescents. I’m equally concerned that many parents are buying into the theory that their teens are entitled to so much, whether they earn it or not.
Perhaps you think I’m crazy. What am I babbling about anyway?
Well, let me ask a couple of rhetorical questions with purpose:

When did we start blaming teachers for the failure of students?

I’m not saying that all teachers are flawless (or any, for that matter). I’m not so nave to think that there aren’t instructors out there who are lazy or who don’t like kids or who shouldn’t be in the field at all. Of course there are weak links in the field of education, just as there are in any field or career. Believe me, as a therapist, I have seen my share of counselors who do more harm than good with their clients. That being said, I have found this to be the exception, rather than the rule, in the teachers I have known and worked with. I have found most teachers to be conscientious, hard-working people who genuinely care about kids. Yet, I hear so much being said about how it is the fault of teachers that public education and, therefore, our students are in the state they’re in.

Let me risk sounding clich by writing that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

What I see is that many students…maybe even a majority of students…couldn’t care less about working for an education. I cannot tell you how many teens I see, both as a therapist and as an educator, who simply refuse to do their work, some out of defiance and some out of laziness. Only a small percentage is truly incapable of doing the work (although some certainly fit into this category). Most, however, just don’t want to make the effort and believe they shouldn’t HAVE to anyway.

But, of course, this is mainly the fault of the teachers and their inability to divinely reach down into the souls of each child and inspire them to greatness (sarcasm intended).
Perhaps this paradigm started with good intentions. Maybe there was a time when students were working their tails off but the teachers just weren’t competent or didn’t care. Maybe there came a time when the pendulum had swung too far away from teacher responsibility. I don’t know…maybe this was the case at some point and maybe this shift from student to teacher responsibility was needed in order to help students learn.
I just don’t buy it.

I do know that many of the students I have seen in public schools are fully aware that the onus is OFF of them. They know that they don’t have to do much of the work and yet still have a good chance to be moved on when the year ends, whether they failed or not. Savvy students know that, even if their true grade is a 20%, that teachers are pressured (in fact, ordered) to give them a 50% and no lower. This knowledge alone gives them the sense that they can do nothing for most of the year and yet pull out a passing grade. After all, when one can’t score below a 50%, one only has to raise that grade by 10 points in order to pass. Some administrators claim that this allows the student to gain self-esteem and “hope” to finish the year strong. As a counselor, I view this idea as nave at best and, at the worst, harmful to everyone involved. Giving a student a 50%, when that student knows they haven’t earned it, does not build self-worth; it develops a sense of entitlement and plants the seed for narcissism. At his core, a narcissist is someone who feels entitled to everything they want but, deep down, has a strong sense of inadequacy and insecurity. Giving students a grade doesn’t build self-esteem; encouraging a student to work hard even when they don’t want to so they experience the success that brings….this is what builds true confidence. Yet, teachers are forced to lie about a student’s grade, explain why they haven’t coaxed a higher grade out of that student, or worry about their job security if they don’t comply.

I’m sorry…where is the student’s role in their own success?

Next question…

When did we, as parents and educational leaders, allow the inmates to run the asylum?

I’m amazed at how much disrespect and poor behavior student are allowed to exhibit with little or no consequences. Recently, a bus driver told me that two boys refused to hurry to get to the bus, even though they were the ones who were late. Students are increasingly tardy to class, knowing that the consequences (if there are any) are nothing to fear. Students know that the repercussions for things like fighting or cursing out a teacher might sting but aren’t earth-shattering. Somehow, the pendulum we spoke about earlier has swung so far that students are appalled that a teacher or principal would have the AUDACITY to confront them on poor behavior (GASP). Who do the teachers think they are, anyway??? Often, parents reinforce this attitude in their teens, claiming that teachers bear a personal grudge or that their child is being singled out.

So…what ARE we teaching our kids?

What I see is that we are giving our teens a sense that they deserve special treatment, no matter how they act. Isn’t this a horrible disservice to our kids? I mean, life isn’t like that, is it? How surprised our teens will be when they are not permitted to curse out their employer without being reprimanded or fired or when they are not allowed to dress just any old way at work. They are going to be flabbergasted when they are “let go” because they didn’t complete their work on a consistent basis as they were required to do. Why can’t they find a job with a big starting salary? Don’t they deserve it?

Honestly, if we don’t reverse this trend, we are going to produce an entire generation of young adults who expect to have the best of everything, work very little, and who cannot handle authority. Of course, none of these issues would be THEIR fault, but obviously the fact that their employers are just all jerks who are out to get them.

Can we get real here?

In an effort to make things look better than they really are, aren’t we turning a blind eye to ethical shortcuts and tying the hands of our teachers? Aren’t we letting the tail wag the dog?
Instead of entitlement, shouldn’t we focus on empowering our teenagers? I say we should. I say we should put the responsibility of learning back where it belongs—in the hands of the learner…and then we should teach them how to carry that burden….give them the strength to do so. Teachers should be held accountable for being a guide on the road to maturity and growth, as well as an encourager to the student. The only way a student can truly be empowered is if THEY are the ones taking ownership of their work. When the teachers are doing the majority of the work it only leads to burnout for the teacher and boredom for the student. We, as parents, must also lay the responsibility in the laps of our children. Teachers must empower the students and administrators must empower the teachers. When this happens, the results are happier parents, invigorated educators, and teenagers with a foundation of genuine self-esteem and the power to make a difference.

Empowerment or Entitlement? What’s it going to be?


About the Author: Aaron Welch is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has devoted his life to reaching out and helping people to grow and mature through difficult life situations. Whether it has been through clinical counseling, pastoral ministry, youth camps and conventions, public speaking, leadership training, educational instruction, athletic coaching or small group ministry, Aaron has over twenty years of experience in assisting people through life struggles and personal growth. His genuine love for people and his outgoing personality combine to create a safe and caring environment for putting the pieces of life back together. For more information, please visit Aaron at www.lifeworksgroup.org or www.legacycounselingservices.org

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Discovering Your Destiny

by Barb Waldron

Could it be that reading this article right now, wherever you are, is part of your destiny? If we take God at his word that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16), then it is no accident you are reading these words.

A good friend recently gave me a plaque which reads, “May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.” Being at LifeWorks right now is part of God’s plan for you. In the days, weeks, and months that follow, as you partner with us, we desire to help you bring lasting change into your life that takes you to a new level of personal, professional, and relational fulfillment. How does it work? By embracing your destiny.

I’d like to invite you to think about your life in terms of a simple acronym corresponding to the word, “destiny.” Perhaps these keys can help you unlock the life you were meant to live.

D: Dependence on God. In our society, independence is highly touted. And let’s face it - we wouldn’t have a country without it! While there are certainly positive aspects of independence, in terms of personal growth, the greatest place to start is radical dependence on our Creator. No one knows you like God. He designed you for certain activities and relationships, and discovering them can only be found in knowing Him and allowing Him to lead your life. If we attempt to do life independent of God, we will falter much and fail drastically. Jesus spoke of the importance of dependence on God when he instructed his disciples to “abide in me” and further clarified: “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). Develop your dependence on God by giving more and more of yourself over to His care each day. Start small, telling the Holy Spirit you are relinquishing certain parts of yourself to Him. Give gradually - and receive abundantly! - as you trust the Lord with your life. Make a daily commitment to spend time in prayer, reading the Bible, observing God in nature, connecting with other Christ-followers, and serving people as God has equipped you. Your life will shift from self- or other-centeredness to God-centeredness, which will bring hope, healing, and wholeness to your life. Dependence on God leads to freedom, which allows us to walk the path of our destiny. If you are struggling in any area of life, learn to trust God with it, and He will show you the path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6)

E: Encourage yourself and someone else. Just as we were not meant to live independently, we were not meant to live for our pleasure, but to fulfill our destiny and to look out for others’ welfare. This is extremely counter-cultural! Especially in times of crisis and stress, we need to begin by encouraging ourselves. King David demonstrated this in 1 Samuel 30:6. After a fierce battle, with his men on the verge of deserting him, we read: “David encouraged himself in the Lord.” This was the only way he could make it through! And so can you. Try this: When faced with an obstacle, as moments of crisis threaten you or stress takes over, remember God’s faithfulness in the past during similar difficulties, and then recall how He shaped your character, and how He provided for you. The fact that you are reading this right now is encouragement to continue on. God has a plan for you! Find small ways of encouraging yourself – a sport you love to play, a person you need to reconnect with, recalling a few positive words someone spoke to you, reading some affirmative words from a favorite author, checking into a club or organization you are interested in. Stir up your heart to live again! Speaking of stir up, that brings up the other aspect of encouraging – encourage someone else. The Bible tells us to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Find a way to recognize or compliment someone else today, or encourage them to break free from a bad habit, if you know this is a priority for them. There is great power in believing in others and encouraging them to believe in themselves. As you encourage yourself and someone else, you enlarge your territory of influence, growing in your destiny.

S: Set your mind. The Bible tells us to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). While this does not indicate neglecting earthly responsibilities, the focus of our mind should be firmly placed on Christ, His work in our lives, becoming more like Him, and serving others. Attitude is everything. When we choose to look up to God, ask Him to help us see circumstances and people through His eyes, focus on the future, and make the most of the present, our lives become tremendously satisfying. The pain of our past has to be dealt with. In large part, this unconsciously controls our lives. Once we face those hurts, then gradually release the pain and the people involved to God, allowing Him to generously heal and restore us, we can walk in victory, out of past hurts and into our God-given freedom. The mind is a major center of transformation. Norman Vincent Peale advocated in The Power of Positive Thinking, a three step process of engaging your mind to work for you, not against you. It is simply: “Prayerize, picturize, actualize.” First, pray about your situation and all of the people involved; next, envision your desired outcome and hold that mental picture in your mind (in essence, “set your mind”); and finally, carry it out. Take action steps, even small ones, to help you get closer to your goals and dreams everyday. Before you know it, you are on your way to fulfilling your destiny. God honors the initiative we take in completing the work He gave us to do. Expect to be awed as you set your mind on things above.

T: Thankfulness. Why is Thanksgiving such a cherished holiday? Because on center stage is nothing more than the simple activity of giving thanks. This is a powerful practice! Deliberately program your mind to be in a thankful state. It’s easy to be thankful when things go well, so why not make each occurrence an opportunity to recognize it? When good things come, a simple statement made silently to yourself, or verbally expressed to others and/or to God, sets in motion a stream of similar blessings to follow. Even when unfortunate things happen, you can usually find a positive element for which to give thanks. Keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent discipline. A simple notebook or notepad will do. Write down at least 5 things per day for which you are thankful. Reflect back on the last week or month of your gratitude notes. It won’t take long for you to see your life in a new spectrum. Your perspective on your life will change from defeated or run-of-the-mill to highly appreciative of the amazing things that happen when you embrace life with an attitude of gratitude. You will hasten your destiny by giving thanks.

I: Intentional living. What would it be like for you to “live in the present?” So much of our time is spent brooding on the past or anxiously anticipating the future, that we rarely embrace our present moments. Use your time wisely – curtail your TV watching and media use. Practice more meaningful communication with people you care about, pursue a job or hobby you are interested in, and a future you desire. Try establishing some helpful contacts in a field of interest and see where it leads. Carve out time each day for the people you love. Discover some shared activities to strengthen those relationships. Write a personal mission statement. It can be a simple statement, such as: “I was born to ______________________________ (fill in the blank with major ways you contribute to life on this planet.) What is one thing you wish someone invested in your life? Invest that in someone else’s life now. Be intentional in how you live.

N: New behaviors. As human beings, we get into routines. Change things up! Find a new way to respond to stress, crisis, and relationships in your life. Incremental changes add up. Are you embroiled in a conflict with someone? Respond in a different way than usual. It may defuse tension and allow you to see things, that person, and even yourself differently. Even asking a simple question or requesting information (“tell me about that”) may help you see things in a new light and propel you farther toward your destiny.

Y: Your future awaits you. If you knew you were destined for something marvelous like greatness, success, healing, or to make a major impact on the world, would it make a difference in how you live this day? Think of yourself as destined for ________________________ (fill in the blank with your dream or goal; go ahead – dream BIG!) Now all you need to do is back that up with action. Put some steps in place each day which lead you closer to your destiny.

If you knew that the impact of your decisions would send ripples into the next generation, would it make a difference in how you lived your life? Most of us won’t hesitate getting our act together when we realize we are affecting other people; but when it comes to thinking of our life alone, we are not nearly as motivated to change. Your family’s destiny is also affected by your own personal destiny. Live it out! Impact future generations!

God has a dream for your life. Are you living it? Are your sights too low? Are there limitations standing in your way? As the saying goes, don’t tell God how big your mountain is, tell that mountain how big your GOD is! Faith moves God’s heart to act on our behalf (Hebrews 11:6). Some of us did not have a good role model for a parent – a mother and/or father who was either deficient or absent. Even if your parents were great, we all fall short in some aspect. We are human and do our best, but sometimes we’re at our worst with the people closest to us. God can heal this. Even our shortcomings with a family member can be used to shine forth the perfection and fulfillment of Christ. “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:10.

Decide on 2 ways this week to live out your destiny. Here are some ideas: find people it would be helpful to connect with, read a book to learn a valuable skill, take a class, find a mentor in your field of interest, reach out to your online community, engage in a new activity that fuels your energy, exercise, get up earlier to seize the day and spend some time with God before the daily onslaught of activities, reconnect with family members, apologize to someone you hurt, ask forgiveness, work toward resolution, write in your own ideas here:

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Unleash your potential as you abide in Christ (John 15:5). Unfurl your talents, gifts, and abilities God has given you. Don’t hold them in! That’s not what they’re meant for. Present them to the world and honor God by doing so. “Do not neglect the gift that is in you…” (1 Timothy 4:14).

Restore your relationship with God, yourself, and others. We have been entrusted with a “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). Bring your relationships back into balance, or perhaps let go of a habit, grudge, or fear that may be limiting you. Use your past to make peace with the present and create a springboard for your future.

Try it out! Just for today, embrace your destiny: depend on God, encourage yourself and others, set your mind above, practice thankfulness, live intentionally, try some new behaviors, and be amazed as you behold – your future awaits you!

Just release - open your mind, heart, and spirit to God and your arms out to others. Become ever-learning and continually growing. Soar into the fullness of your destiny. The only one holding you back - is you. Make a difference in someone’s life. Help them find their destiny, too!


About the Author: Barb Waldron is a Master’s level intern completing her Counseling Psychology degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University in Orlando. She loves to celebrate life and help others feel appreciated, cherished and valued so they can experience the difference their lives make to others.

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