Helping teens build good values

Michael J. Bradley, EdD Psychologist, Author & Speaker, shares advice for parents on how to help your teenager build good values and a strong character
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Helping teens build good values

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When you talk about trying to improve the heart, the soul, the character of your child, now you’re into the real Super bowl of parenting. Our problem is we have bad glasses, we’re very myopic. We tend to really focus on small details and miss the big picture. We’re so worried about homework, and having the right friends, and the right clothes and the right school, we forget that real success is tied to issues of heart – beliefs, character, values. How do you foster those things? Stop micromanaging, step back and look at your child’s experience. Most of us have our children growing up in a bubble, a Disneyworld kind of a situation. They really don’t understand what the real world is like. Secondly, kids and young adolescents have specific neurologic challenges with empathy and guilt. They literally don’t have the brain wiring. When we confront them with a situation when they have to make a decision, they have to go to the part of the brain that says, “What will happen to me?” As adults, we’re more contextual. We go to other parts of the brain as well. “What happens to me?” And, “What happens to people that I love? The people in my community? The people around me?” So we make better decisions. How do you get a kid to start to develop those circuits? By trying to foster special experiences such as volunteer work at the shelter, the soup kitchen, mission trips, service activities where they see real people struggling with real issues. Kids being confronted with those things – not overly traumatized – but seeing those things, actually grows those circuits in the brain. My own son went to Cuba on an illegal trip when he was 16. He came back a changed kid. He had gone to smuggle drugs in, because babies die in Cuba in the old days, because they couldn’t get antibiotics. So he made this trip, which really frightened the heck of us as parents, he came back a young man. Look for those experiences to build that heart and character of your child. Success follows that.

Michael J. Bradley, EdD Psychologist, Author & Speaker, shares advice for parents on how to help your teenager build good values and a strong character

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Michael J. Bradley, EdD

Psychologist, Author & Speaker

Michael J. Bradley, EdD, award-winning author, has counseled adolescents and their parents for over 30 years and currently has a private practice in suburban Philadelphia. As a recognized specialist in adolescent behavior and parenting, Dr. Bradley is in demand as a speaker and facilitator for mental health professionals, educators, and parenting groups. He has appeared on over 400 radio and television shows, including CNN, The Today Show and Good Morning, America, and has been interviewed by numerous magazines and newspapers such as USA Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Parents Magazine. His website forum is a great source of advice and encouragement to parents.

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