During this summer, when teens are at home, and parents may find their schedules a little more relaxed, a great opportunity presents itself that will help strengthen the family and also prepare teens for a better, happier school year in the fall.
The old adage “Know thyself” is long famous as good advice, usually given to adults. So is another, “To thine own self be true.” But how do teens, in the midst of self-discovery — often confusing, overwhelming, or lonely
— learn about themselves, discern goals and values, and begin to move forward, become self-aware?
And equally important, with the epidemics of cheating and bullying among their peers, how do teens continue to persevere with their hopes and dreams when they encounter a lack of support, or even derision?
Malcolm Gauld is the President of the Hyde Schools organization, a network of public and private schools and the forerunner in character education and leadership development for more than 40 years.
“The purpose of character education,” says Malcolm, “is to help kids become their authentic selves as adults — defined not only by grades and external achievements, but by WHO THEY ARE and what they believe in.”
Gauld and his wife Laura are co-authors of the award-winning book on parenting “The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have,” as well as the “Biggest Job” parenting seminars. With an interest in distilling a program that parents could work with their teens, and rooted in the same principles, they created a program called “Know Yourself, Be Yourself.”
“This is an effective workshop that offers families an opportunity to learn what makes their teens tick,” says Malcolm. “We encourage parents to use a positive approach to learn what really reaches their teenagers and connects them to the desire and passion to pursue their best.”
“The purpose of the “Know Yourself” program is to help young students understand how to take risks to discover more about themselves,” says Pam Hardy, director of the program, “and to help them find the courage to be themselves, even when others may not support them — a common scenario among teens. This happens when we act and respond from a foundation of honesty.”
The theme of the program is about taking risks to help teens discover more about themselves and then finding the courage to be themselves. There are three tenets of the program:
1. We are all unique and we all want to be somebody.
2. It takes courage to be ourselves.
3. We need the support and challenge of others to find our uniqueness and to know who we truly are.
During the sessions, teens are invited to talk about each of the above points, explain them, define them, and share a personal example of how they have struggled with this.
They are also invited to participate in interactive exercises, including The Human Knot. Included in the sessions are important “Public Self / Private Self” exercises that incorporate the 10 Priorities, the underpinning of the Hyde Schools character development program.
In addition, there is an important session on labeling one another, or how we box students into categories — the smart one, the dumb one, the fat one, the bully, the one who is creative, or angry, athletic, responsible or irresponsible, etc. — another challenge for teens, and indeed for their parents.
Finally teens are invited to create declarations about themselves, answering two specific questions:
1. What dreams do I have for my future?
2. What do I want to stand for as a person?
“These are guiding principles that will help teenagers form their goals, as well as the journey of achieving them,” says Malcolm. “And a process of self-discovery supported by their family better prepares them for a new year at school. Additionally, we have seen how programs such as this can reverse the impact of negative outside influences that teenagers face, giving them the tools to challenge those forces and supporting their efforts in developing a positive peer culture.”