Developing Character for Teenagers

Developing Character for Teenagers

In my role as head of FranklinCovey Education in the UK, I get to meet many head teachers to discuss applying our training to the challenges they face. Many secondary school heads have confided that they are seeing a dramatic increase in mental health issues with their pupils. One headteacher said, that on average 15 pupils were fainting per day due to stress related issues at his school.

Mental Health
The reasons for the significant decline in teenage mental health over the past decade are varied and complex. Life for teenagers these days is a toxic cocktail: the relentless pressure to maintain an image of perfection, a ubiquitous social media addiction, a lack of meaningful relationships, increased academic workloads and pressure to perform, all coupled with a dearth of the practical, emotional and social skills with which to address these issues.
Personal Experiences

Whilst delivering the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers’ to a school recently I was struck by how difficult teenagers found it to interact socially with each other. There was a clear, general social awkwardness that never existed in my generation. These teenagers seemed to be able to communicate to close friends, but when put in front of a peer they did not know, they were the proverbial fish out of water. Hopelessly lost – clutching at straws. It was evident that they desperately wanted to communicate with each other, but there were anxiety issues, a clear lack of confidence and relationship skills not to mention the ‘language’ barrier of ‘text talk’ that prevented them from freely communicating.

In a different secondary school, I encountered teenage pupils who were socially challenged, with no basic level of respect for adults and their peers. They constantly interrupted and disrupted their fellow pupils’ learning, and were almost always off-course. They were confident and had plenty of personality – but showed little character. They were highly independent, yet demonstrated little ability to work well with others. It was as if they had never been given the mindset and skillset to work on developing their character or work well with others.

I believe that there are no problem children, only children with problems. And that the behaviours I observed were a cry for help from stressed teenagers.

As a parent of three teenagers, I believe our role is instrumental in developing character, wellbeing and relationship skills within our children. And it all starts with us. We are always modelling, but the question is what are we modelling, and are we being explicit and proactive about creating the family values we want? We need to lead by example because our children mirror our actions.

The Personality Ethic
The superficial Personality Ethic which dominates our society has a toxic definition of success that is one of the leading causes of the increase in mental health issues. Success has been reduced to money, power, fame and achievements. The Personality Ethic means we are consumed by the image we consciously project to the world, and the techniques and fast fixes we use to reinforce this public image. Today’s teens hear parents silently screaming ‘Academics First’ while their world is constantly reinforcing the need to get plugged in, to project the perfect image and be responsive 24/7. Teenagers are over-connecting on social media, and under-connecting with themselves, with each another, and with their families. They are connected to the entire world in a shallow way, and deeply DIS-connected from those closest to them. In their busy, already overloaded lives there is little time to develop character – the true roots of success.

The Character Ethic
The Character Ethic is the foundation of success – it is focused on qualities such as integrity, humility, fidelity, courage, justice, industry, patience, modesty and the Golden Rule (treat others the way you want to be treated). The Character Ethic teaches that there are essential principles for effective living, and that we can only experience real success and happiness by learning and integrating these principles into our character. It is primarily concerned with who we are becoming, as opposed to being focused on what we are achieving.

“our first energies should go to our own character development, which is often invisible to others, like the roots that sustain great trees. As we cultivate the roots, we will begin to see the fruits.”
Stephen Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers fundamentally focuses on developing character.

Clinton Lamprecht
United Education Group

By | 2017-06-14T14:30:31+01:00 14th June, 2017|Teenagers|