Prepare Teens to Lead us Into the Future

Our Teens and Tweens Must be Fully Prepared

Your goal right now and in the future is to raise a child fully prepared to be a successful 35, 40, and 50-year-old. This means holding them to high expectations.

Adolescence is a time of opportunity. It’s a period in which teens must be encouraged to have new experiences that will help shape them into the young adults they will become. It’s a time to prepare them to successfully navigate future challenges. The endgame is for us to help build a resilient, and ultimately successful adult. One who happily contributes to the larger society.

Too many teens are held to low expectations in their lives. Some adults presume teens lack a sense of responsibility, urgency, or desire to finish what they start. Popular portrayals of adolescence on TV, online, and in the news often suggest that it is a time to be survived. Teens are seen as reckless, self-centered, even dangerous. Our minority and under-resourced teens are even more likely to be viewed negatively in our society.

It is ineffective to tell youth what we think they should be if it comes from the stance, “Because here’s what we think you’re not.” It’s that mindset that leads too many programs towards focusing only on preventing risk. To be absolutely clear: We are not against programs that steer youth away from risk. We applaud them! But it leads us to then ask, “What should adolescents be steered towards?”

Learn a New Motto

Never accept a problem label being slapped on youth in your community. Look for a variety in programming. Look for programs that are focused on more than just preventing risk. Ask, “What are we doing to engage youth to become their best selves, to contribute to our communities today and far into the future?”

Your motto must be, “Problem free is not fully prepared.” This clarion call was first made by Karen Pittman, one of the leaders of the Positive Youth Development Movement in the 1980s. Her call has been echoed by other leaders in this movement, including Richard Lerner, Director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. He says, “A child free of problems . . . is not necessarily a child who has the knowledge and skills to compete successfully in the global marketplace. Educators and employers will want to know that young people are not engaging in harmful behaviors; however, they also will want to know that young people are prepared to fully participate in school and career.”

Your motto must be, “Problem free is not fully prepared.”

Prepare Youth to Lead Us Into the Future

Your child does not exist in a vacuum. Your teen exists in a community that sets the tone for how we raise kids and for what expectations become normal for our youth.

You want to create a foundation upon which your child will THRIVE. That means advocating for all children and adolescents in your community.

Don’t stand alone. Send this message out to your community!

About Ken Ginsburg

Ken Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, is Founding Director of CPTC and Professor of Pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He travels the world speaking to parent, professional, and youth audiences and is the author of 5 award-winning parenting books including a multimedia professional toolkit on “Reaching Teens.” CPTC follows his strength-based philosophy and resilience-building model. For more on Dr. Ginsburg visit

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