Hey guys I’m out of the country this week, but wanted to post this interview I did with Josh Shipp. If you have a teen or work with them, you’re going to benefit from this interview I did with him! Josh is a teen behavior specialist who has lectured at Harvard, Stanford, and his work has influenced over two million teens and parents. He is the author of “The Teen’s Guide to World Domination” and featured in Lifetime’s NEW documentary series TEEN TROUBLE which starts December 28th at 10pm.
TW: Many of the kids you work with are deeply troubled…how do we move kids from “troubled” to “influencers”?
JS: The question used to be, is MY kid at-risk. Now, the fact is that EVERY kid lives in an at-risk culture. I think it’s important to understand that every kid not only has the opportunity to become at-risk, but is one or two choices away from it at any given moment. Think about it – you or I are only about two choices away from either ending up in prison or making a difference in a stranger’s life today.
The only thing more compelling to a kid than drugs or alcohol is a compelling vision for their life. It’s not just about saying NO; it’s about saying YES to something bigger and better. For me, that was a relationship with God. And baseball. And public speaking. These things mattered to me. When we have things that matter to us, we naturally protect ourselves from anything that would pose a threat to what we love. Encourage the kid to catch a vision for their life. Give anything positive a try…for any reason. For teens, these gifts often first present themselves as annoyances. When I was a kid I was not considered a communicator, I was a class clown. I needed mentors to help shape the annoyance into a useful gift.
TW: What would you say to the teen that others would say is “troubled”?
JS: Depends on where they are at. Are they wanting to change? IF not- this is the first battle. Doesn’t matter how bad YOU want them to change or their parents want them to change, THEY need to want something different. Until they reach this point, all bets are off. With the kids I work with in Teen Trouble, I use a method I call “fast forwarding”. It doesn’t work to sit down and chat with a kid about where his choices are taking him, you need to SHOW him or her. Kids are visual. This means I will make kids homeless or take them to jail – truly bring them face to face with their inevitable reality. Whatever it takes to bring a kid to that moment where they decide somethings gotta change.
If the kid wants to change, they need help, encouragement, and a village of caring adults who can help them walk through the steps. Constantly reinforce and remind them that they can do this, that God is pulling for them and so are you. Change is hard. Counseling is hard. Quitting drugs is hard. Turning your back on certain friends is brutal. They will need consistent encouragement and consistently reminded of WHY they are doing all this hard work. Speak to them about their future — not the current circumstances. Who you see them becoming, not who they’ve been.
TW: What should other students do when they see their friends in trouble?
JS: Ask questions. Find out what’s going on. Talk about hard things you’ve been through in hopes that they will open up to you about hard things they are currently going through. Encourage them to get help from someone. Let them know they are not weak for needing help, but they are brave and courageous for having the guts to face their problems head on. Introduce them to good influences, good activities and positive distractions.
TW: What do leaders, teachers and parents need to do?
JS: Consistent encouragement and consistent consequences are key.
Remind the kid that they matter and that God loves them. Kids have daily amnesia when it comes to knowing that they matter.
Don’t bail them out of the opportunity to experience the pain of their choices. It is a kid’s job to push the boundaries, but it is the adult’s job to hold the boundaries. By letting a kid feel the pain of their choices, you are giving them an awareness that something is broken. Remember, the point of consequences is correction NOT punishment.
My foster parents and youth pastor held that line for me. Didn’t bail me out. Didn’t fix my mess. At the time, I didn’t appreciate it. But looking back, it saved my life. It was the absolute best thing they could have done for me.
Just remember, you might not change the world but you can change one kids world. And for that one kid, it could change everything.
As a former troubled kid, turned influencer…THANK YOU to all of you who invest in our young people. What you do matters.