Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Guidance vs. manipulation re: young people

This blog entry derives from yesterday's blog entry. I still feel sorry for that poor girl. Why is there no one to provide guidance for this girl? I then thought of my own situation, in which I work in a university and deal with a lot of young people ranging in age from thier late teens to early 20's. What do I do to provide guidance for them? I gave that some thought, and I concluded that I needed to give this more thought. However, I like to encourage commentary and discussion from others, so I posted the entry below in a website that I frequent. Then I thought, "Hey, this would be good for my blog, too!" So below is my post from that other website. Feel free to e-mail me directly, or to post commentary.


I'm in my 40's, but in my head I often feel like I'm in my 20's. And yet, there are times that I feel my age.

I don't want to lose the ability to talk to the "young people". By "young people", I mean basically folks in their late teens thru their mid 20's - in other words, people who are no longer children, but who are still to a degree impressionable. There's so much out there that is bad for them that I don't know where to begin.

When I talk to them, I don't want to come off as some sort of prude; but at the same time, I don't want to be a "best friend" in the way that some parents try to be "best friends" with their children rather than be their parents. As the person who's moved beyond the impressionable young adult age, it's important that I keep that distinction between young adult and --er, not so young adult.

Young people in their late teens and early 20's have already got a lot of their views set, but they can still be swayed by charismatic or persuasive types who may or may not have their best interests in mind. This is why the colleges and universities have become such a battleground.

I want to help the young people I talk to, because I work around a lot of them at the university where I am employed. Bottom line, I don't want to tell them what to think or what to believe - I want them to know HOW to think about what to believe. There's enough people in their lives that want to "upload" their belief systems or ways of thinking into their brains without me adding to the mix. I think that, for them, it's better in the long run if I help them learn how to discern what's told to them instead of them just accepting what's told to them.

So with that, let me ask both "young people" and those who help them what you suggest to do.

If you are around a lot of young people yourself, what do you do when you talk to them? Do you try to strike a balance between guiding them and manipulating them? What would you say IS that line between guidance and manipulation?

If you're a young person yourself, what kind of older person has helped you before? Would you know the difference between someone who's really trying to be a help from someone who's trying to manipulate you into a certain way of thinking?

Thanks in advance for any of your comments and observations.

1 comment:

JB said...

Step away from "guidance" and "manipulation" and focus on "example". If you are a bastion of good sense and demonstrate the ethics and values that are worth posessing, then young people will be drawn to you.

Interact in a casual way with young people, but remain a man in your 40s. Those who define themselves relative to those around them are doomed to simply being lost in the crowd by being defined by it. What a great way to lose one's identity and one's value to a community.

Instead of blending into the crowd, be a part of it while at the same time standing apart. By analogy, walk a straight line from point A to point B instead of milling about with everyone else. Your straight line approach will be an example to others.

If, as you walk from point A to point B, you are insular and unpleasant, your example will suggest to others that getting from point A to point B is implicitly tied to becoming insular and unpleasant. If you are happy and contented in your travel, then others will see that trip as being associated with happiness and contentment. It's all in the example that you show.

To be an example requires a rare virtue: patience. Instead of the quick and easy, which can lead to manipulation, try the slow and steady route of gentle nudges to others as opportunities present themselves. When no opportunity presents itself, stick with being a good example to others. You can be an example to billions, but directly nudge only a few.