Promoting Empathy With Your Teen

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What's More Important, Justice Or Resiliency?

Why fewer feelings of entitlement leads to healthier feelings of self-worth

The reality is, no one person is entitled to be liked. With so much emphasis on how others should treat and regard us, a significant number of young people have bought into the illusion that it is mandatory for others to be nice to them. The best way to overcome rejection is learning to see others like yourself. People, in spite of our individual unique traits, are the same. Regardless of our diverse upbringings, personalities and diverse appearances, we all want to be loved, recognized, and accepted while being in control of our environments.  

Whenever the mass media covers a story about how someone committed suicide due to excessive teasing, our hearts go out to that person and his or her family and we all feel inspired to do something about it. Such knee-jerk policies include issues such as anti-bullying policies. As a therapist I have bore witness to students being kicked out of of school because they were accused of being mean-spirited to their classmates.

The only time a student should be kicked out of school is if he or she initiates or threatens physical violence against another or other students. However, when it comes to mean-spirited remarks, I do believe it's something that can be resolved through adult intervention, mediation and teaching students how to practice assertiveness and compassion.

The manner in which most students are being taught to deal with conflicts these days is a setup for failure. On the other end of the debate, I witness young people who while understandingly naive also have an irrational sense of entitlement. These are people who believe that just because they have achieved certain feats that they are entitled to be treated in a certain fashion. Of course, it doesn't help that they have grown up with adults in their lives telling them that they deserve certain privileges for certain accomplishments to include being treated fairly.

Life is unpredictable—this is what keeps us on our toes. The rules on how we should get our emotional needs met change just as we think we have gotten a hang of things. However, sometimes we are caught unawares with certain changes in our life experiences which create a great deal of turmoil in our lives. This is why some people fall prey to the illusions of guarantees.

The reality is that as parents and educators, we should spend more time teaching our children about overcoming adversity, primarily through the development of emotional resiliency versus the illusions of guaranteed justice. Most of the time when I work with a young person who believes that he or she is being treated unfairly—they usually are—it's not so much that the unfair treatment is the worst thing that could happen to them, it's more of the fact that they have come to believe that they shouldn't be treated unfairly. Once they come to realize that the experience is something they can handle, they actually do a great job in suggesting sound solutions in response to what they are going through.

In other words people become inspired when they realize that they are not constrained by the actions of others, only by their own choices.

What if you found yourself on the receiving end of bad treatment from another person? It could be rejection in the form of discrimination, or it could be bullying behavior in the form of harassment. What if you could acknowledge your feelings of hurt from the other person’s behavior, forgive them and focus your energies on teaming up with others who regard you with dignity?

Ultimately that’s the mentality those of us with children would prefer for our children to adopt, the ability to be resilient. Justice is important, but in most cases where a person has been treated unfairly, too much energy is wasted seeking justice. The worst part is when young people refuse to move on until their mean-spirited counterpart has been punished.

So what are your thoughts and feelings about today's post? Please feel free to leave your comments below. I respond to all comments.

Ugo Uche is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions, a professional counseling and life coaching practice based in Tucson, AZ.

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Ugo Uche is a Licensed Professional Counselor who specializes in adolescents and young adults.

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