Recently I was talking with bunch of parents of teens where we were talking about the biggest sexual temptations that our teens are/will be facing. In the midst of the discussion, one of the parents used the term “marketing” in reference to the ways it seems teen girls have to present themselves to the opposite sex in order to gain any modicum of attention.
I found that term “marketing” particularly captivating as it rang hauntingly true. In the adolescent world, it does seem like there is fierce competition for another’s attention. Students in their quest for identity send themselves down a path to doing/wearing/trying almost anything just to get noticed. Some parents shared stories of photo after photo they have seen on Facebook of scantily clad girls that are up there for all the world to see. Others commiserated over the different wardrobe battles they have to endure in order to get out of the mall without needing stitches.
On the other end of the gender aisle, Dads worry about the ease at which pornography is accessible for their sons and what that kind of marketing is doing to their boys perception of reality, personhood, and truth. We aren’t even going near the age at which so many of the guys I talk to have seen performance enhancing drugs and steroids in the locker room in an attempt to get noticed on the field.
It seems like every where a teen turns there are so many gimmicks that students resort to in order to try to “market” themselves and stand out in a crowd.
So what is a parent, coach, youth worker, teacher, to do?
Than answer is almost too simple . . . notice them NOW.
SEE the teens around you and say “Hi.” Trust me, they are there, you jsut maight not have seen them.
Don’t just notice kids who ACHIEVE (QBs, STraight A Students, Cheerleader, Soloists, Starting Forward, etc.) . . . notice the introvert in the corner and sit with them.
Don’t just hang out with the “pretty kids” . . . didn’t we get our fill of that kind of behavior in high school?
Find those kids who ARE trying to hide because they just do not know how to market themselves or got too tired trying to play that marketing game . . . and give them the time of day.
Talk WITH teens, not just TO them. Learn who they are, What makes them tick? What did they do last weekend? What’s their favorite band on their iPod? Ask them what movie you should get off Netflix and Why?
Tell them some stories from your life because, believe it or not, they want to know you too! (more on that in future blogs)
Praise a kid just for EXISTING not for performance . . . Jesus did that kind of thing all the time, didn’t he?
WARNING: This WILL be awkward at moments! You will blow it from time to time. But I guarantee that it WILL make a difference. The results most certainly will not be immediate, but they will be eternal.
This is how we begin to be the hands and feet of Jesus and start to bring down the Madison Ave lie factory that have told our young people they aren’t good enough to the point they have felt the need to start these mini-marketing campaigns of their own.