Should you be concerned?

“Do you have a few minutes that I could talk to you about something in private?”

As a parent, how can you know if your son or daughter is just exhibiting ‘typical adolescent behavior’ or if these are the early signs of a serious threat or crisis to come?

I’ve worked with close to 20,000 teens and young adults over the past 25 years. Many times in these encounters I was asked, “Do you have a minute that I could talk to you about something in private?’

And in these private moments, I hear about all this and more… and a small percentage of time, this leads to someone becoming a private client of mine. Unfortunately in far too small a percentage to change the lives of many of those I recognize as being on the crossroads … in a place where experience shows me repeatedly that what I have to offer would rock their world and potentially change the entire course of their life.

This is the Crossroads where many of today’s youth stand…

Down one road lies a path to disappointment, frustration, despair, and a host of unfulfilled dreams.

On the other road is life fully lived… all the potential that’s present realized… a life of  happiness, success, satisfaction…

To sum up what makes the difference as to which road your son or daughter is most likely to take, is your realizing as their parent the enormous pressure they are under and  giving them the tools now to make the choices that will make all the difference as they journey into their future.

Many of these kids feel as though this pressure is destroying their creativity, confidence and faith in possibilities. In a word, these kids are ANGRY.
And, because they don’t know what to do with that anger, they often direct it at themselves or those closest to them, sabotaging hope for realizing the full success, happiness and true potential of possibilities for their lives.

As a parent you’ll see the signs of the anger that’s brewing just below the surface, in things like:

    • Doing something uncharacteristically high-risk
    • Mood swings that have an “edge” to them
    • Hyper-consumed with and or distracted by peer/social issues
    • Attracted to kids who have serious personal problems
    • Changing/compromising themselves to gain social acceptance
    • Expressing negative, cynical attitudes and opinions about school
    • Expressing negative, cynical attitudes and opinions about learning
    • Expressing negative, cynical attitudes and opinions about relationships
    • Procrastinating on important projects
    • Difficulty making decisions that require commitments

Most teens who are at this critical crossroad only exhibit one of these kinds of behaviors, which is why they so often get categorized as nothing to be concerned about – or worse, simply go unnoticed.

These are the teens who pull me aside after a presentation and ask for a moment with me “in private”… they get it … they need someone … and they’re desperately hoping that they’ve found someone who can hear their pleading for help that goes beyond anything they’ve been offered in – or out of -school.

These are the mature ones who get it … most others just look for a way to escape …

It’s just so easy to miss the evidence if you are not sure what you are looking for, and even easier to become frustrated and stuck, or even panicked as a parent when you’ve tried everything you know how to do and can still see the situation isn’t going where you’d hoped it would.

This is why the majority of people contact me only after they find out their kids are having trouble, and then, only after they have tried numerous other kinds of interventions, only to find that nothing has made the change or impacted them in a fundamental way to create true and lasting change.

Let’s debunk a couple of myths that many modern parents have been fed, the critical signs you need to recognize that are telling you it’s time to act with much more urgency and concern than you could get away with up until now …

Myth #1:  There is such a thing as “normal adolescent behavior” that is just a “stage of life” that will pass

Myth #2:  High achieving kids in school are low risk

Myth #3:  Good kids don’t do the things that bad kids do

All of these are fundamentally wrong … here is the truth:

#1: There is no such thing as normal adolescent behavior …

Many “experts” will tell you that things like this are things to expect from teens:

  • Spending hours alone or on the Internet
  • Withdrawing from parents
  • Doing dangerous high-risk things (drugs, sexual promiscuity, etc)
  • Becoming cynical and self-absorbed
  • Having significant social problems (either from being an outside loner or indulged in a popular crowd)
  • Becoming uninspired and unmotivated

These are not “normal” signs or stages of healthy development.  They are glaring evidence that something is “off” track.

Here’s the good news:

The kids I work with are often anything but normalThey are deep thinkers, believers, dreamers and creators – kids who truly want to live positively. Applying what they learn here, they become the select few who make things happen, get opportunities that others are denied and stand out from the ordinary crowd in countless positive ways. The thing they share in common more than anything else, is a desire to go beyond being just ordinary.

#2:  High achieving kids are under immense pressure from multiple angles, and much of it is from a hidden source that every one knows about but few will ever acknowledge …

This pressure comes from what it takes to maintain the GPA’s that others demand, and that they’ve come to expect from themselves, and to score at elite levels on competitive tests like their SATs. MOST ADULTS WOULD COLLAPSE UNDER THE KINDS OF PRESSURE THESE TEENS ENDURE EVERY DAY. Often the only way they are able to get through it, is by extra help from tutors, SAT prep classes …… and cheating. A recent Duke University study found that over 80% of the top students cheat. And for those who feel  the pressure the most,  using others’ prescription “ADD” medications to help them focus and perform better on these high pressure exams, is becoming more and more common.

This is not even to mention the strain they feel  from growing up in an era that began with 9/11, and continues with daily news about economic collapse, environmental destruction and political unrest. Few adults know just how deeply troubled by all the bad news and the sense of impotence to do anything meaningful about it.

But that is not the worst of it…

Just at the moment when they should be awakening with excitement to enter into the adult world and really become somebody, they are instead burned out, cynical and convinced the world is corrupt. Thus, rather than pursue life’s possibilities with anticipation and enthusiasm, they take the easy way out, succumb to mediocrity and sell themselves and their future’s short… delaying for years, if not permanently, the real adventure that it is to be fully alive.

Now … here’s more good news:

The kids I work with learn and implement far more mature, positive ways to handle life’s many challenges. They are more secure, motivated and determined to succeed – and they do succeed, often in substantial ways.  For example they often find success in their careers – but more importantly they consistently demonstrate they’ve become able to find the thing that seems even more evasive today than succeeding in a job – finding happiness and joy in a truly stable and loving relationship.

[FWIW this is light years beyond the “hooking up” that many of their friends seem stuck in well into their late twenties or thirties …]

#3: WAKE UP: GOOD KIDS DO THE SAME THINGS THAT BAD ONES DO, THEY ARE OFTEN JUST MUCH BETTER AT NOT GETTING CAUGHT!

Many more adolescents and pre-adolescents than you are likely to ever imagine … drink, smoke, shoplift, watch porn, engage in loose, careless sex and other self-destructive behavior, including lying to the adults around them, especially their parents. Doing any of these things seriously impacts the life they are experiencing and the life they are building for themselves.

Many of these kids are into these things far deeper than their parents realize, and it is impacting them far more substantially and in far more troubling ways than is evident on the surface, especially to the untrained observer.

As one of my clients told me: “There is a saying in my fraternity: You are not an alcoholic until you graduate.”

Now if you are thinking he is one of the losers, you’d be wrong. He graduated one of the top private high schools with honors, attends an elite college, is a high achiever and is a socially fast moving guy.

And alcohol isn’t the end of it … there’s the cocaine, ecstasy, the sexual exploitation by both guys and girls, and I don’t know what else.

What I do know, is that when he announced to the “Big-Brother” upper-class student who was supposed to be mentoring him, that he was going to cut back on drinking and drugs, this upper class-man “supposed” role model replied with, “Why would you do that?”

[The unspoken answer could have been, “Because of the realization I came to working with my mentor.” But some things are just better left unsaid and acted on in silence.]

What many parents fail to realize is that any of these things, is potentially a step away from crisis.

To say I have an angle of insight into today’s youth would be a severe understatement.

The countless “few minutes to talk in private” I have spent talking with them, gives me a glimpse into their inner lives, that few others that aren’t living that life will ever have…

An insight into how much they are struggling just to survive the pressure and competitive nature of our modern culture, and of how desperately many of them need and are seeking safe and legitimate help from an adult who “gets it”.

My ability to consistently move these young adults who become my clients forward in a powerfully, positive way, is what separates my work from all the other options available.

To do this work the way I do it takes significant experience, skill and time. I only take on a handful of clients in a year, typically no more than 20, so I can do the work that needs to be done.

This is change at the core, not just “creative problem solving,” but addressing those deep questions of “Who am I?” and “Who do I really want to become?”

Then moving beyond those questions to developing the tools, attitude and character it takes to live the life that would fulfill them fully and without compromise.

Quite simply, this is the only way I know to bring out the best in your son or daughter and lead them to continually be leading an extraordinary life.

Now, if you are interested we need to schedule a time to speak …

I’ll be pleased to offer you a free 20 minute phone consultation to discuss the details regarding your son or daughter. Of course this consultation will be held in the strictest confidence and I’ll also treat our conversations with discretion.

I know that my work is not for every one … and yet consistently for those few for whom it is, there is the help, hope and real lasting results they need … what they have come to realize they are not finding elsewhere. Yet, now you have more then hope, you have a chance to work with a partner in your son’s or daughter’s life who gets it fully and is ready, able and willing to do what it takes to make all the difference in the world … one person at a time.

Call me now at 415.441.8218 or if it’s more convenient email at Jeff@Leiken.com to arrange a time to speak.

I look forward to speaking with you.

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