Future freedom is built upon using current freedoms to make the correct decisions now. Adults have control over numerous aspects of you people’s lives, including our home, food, and mandatory responsibilities. It is essential to recognize and coach young minds to develop strategies to think through their actions when they are in control. This “micro” of today deliberates the “macro” of tomorrow. Younger children may not recognize the importance of the many decisions that they make every day. Helping them to become aware of their choices and their significance is a role we must execute with intentional enthusiasm as their older mentors and young adults.
When young, there is unassigned and unstructured time. Often, children engage in monotonous activities during their free periods. Video games, YouTube, TikTok, and other time-consuming interests fill those voids. Many young people crave interaction, a sense of accomplishment, and personalization. Children often feel that these internal needs are satisfied by external inputs. They find satisfaction in their status on readers’ boards, developing avatars, and playing remotely with others. These immediate glimpses of contentment can be dangerously translated into adolescent lives as “destructive decisions”. Through these learned inputs and results, a young person can find immediate satisfaction when feeling alone, scared, or bored. When older, they may pursue this same instant gratification via drugs or alcohol, excessive screen time or social media, and other addictive activities. Young people are consistently conditioning their minds to this supply-and-demand type environment. These external influences allow a person to quickly change their personality (avatars), increase their social status (Likes & reader boards) or find a social connection (TikTok). This process mimics so many facets of substance addiction, so much so that we can easily see young folks conditioning themselves to an ever-escalating series of rewards, with small things no longer filling the void and constantly chasing those gratifying feelings.
Teachers, parents & caring adults, coaches, influencers, and youth mentors, it’s up to us! We NEED to motivate our younger, elementary-aged children to seek more positive outlets for their interactions and rewards. Marcus Buckingham said it best, “People do not change, they become more of who they already are.” Let’s begin showing and guiding our younger students to know who they really are and help them fill their independent time with activities that will build decision-making stamina for the challenges they will surely face in the future. This can include imaginative, physical, knowledge acquisition, or social interactions. We can all afford to spend a little less time distracted on our devices, a little less time concentrating on keeping up the The Joneses, and a little more time on providing those positive examples for our youth.
I love SADD because it provides me with that support and encouragement to fill my time with productive, positive interactions and rewards. SADD lights a clear path for young people to be the best version of exactly who they already are.
For resources on engaging in mentoring with younger students in your area, check out our mentor guides and other elementary resources at sadd.org/programs. And remember, you’re always setting an example, whether you think you are or not. Make it a good one!