There is a lot of talk in homes, on the news, and in schools about inspiring today’s youth and the future generation of leaders. These conversations start within teens and their parents with the best intentions but usually end up discussing the problems that surround today’s youth, things like cell phone abuse, the social media brain drain, gaming, and substance abuse. That mindset has created a paradigm that entraps the youth and limits them from going beyond the societal expectations set for them. So, if I were to give you three ways to inspire the next generation of leaders, would you believe me? The interesting thing is, what some adults think is impossible, could be started with three simple steps.
The first place to start: The Home.
The self-image of a teenager is primarily defined by what they see and experience in their home. Qualities like responsibility, dedication, commitment, and accountability are all developed by these youth by watching their parents “do” what they say their child should do, and not ignore their teachings. Parents need to demonstrate a unified and secure relationship. I am not talking about a utopian optimistic parent, but a relationship that demonstrates to the teen that life will take you through the peaks and the valleys, but your character is built by not giving up in the valleys. The other aspects of the home that are crucial to inspire teens are the quality of words that are spoken in the house. For example, one cannot minimize the power of a family dinner where stories are told and positive, encouraging words are spoken about the people sitting around the table. Although it may seem that the teen is disinterested in such traditional activities, they open up the channel of communication with teenagers.
The next place that impacts teens is our educational institutions. Teachers need to understand that their students are keenly aware of the financial and emotional stress that most of their parents and grandparents are going through by following the “system” for years before them. There is a tremendous sense of distrust and skepticism in today’s youth, about an educational organization that is not willing to change with the current times. So, educators need to encourage students to discover their strengths, put an emphasis on critical thinking and help their students understand that the purpose of today’s education is to help the students have the ability to “create jobs, not just occupy jobs.” The next generation is filled with people looking to feel empowered and to be self-reliant – they are looking to be a part of a cause, a community, and to be inter-dependent not dependent on a “system.”
Lastly, the media is and will always be the biggest influence on young minds. Negative news sells, and that is what most of the media conveys to the world. People are naturally drawn to “the trash” out of a primate sense of entertainment, fear, protection, and survival. If all the youth hears and sees is gloom and doom – they are uninspired and lose hope. So how can the media inspire the youth? Through movies, TV shows, and websites that demonstrate the will of a human soul. All the youth needs to experience is “a story a day” of someone, somewhere in the world, winning in the game of life. If the Media were to present a regular stream of stories of families uniting and people winning the impact would be immeasurable.
We all have the responsibility to start the cycle of inspiration for the following generation. Recall, it begins with a ray of hope that develops into a belief which begins to beat in the heart: “I can. I know I can!” Belief and hard work at some point results in success, along with the cycle of inspiration continues when that instance of good results in life builds hope for generations to come.