When we conduct workshops for teens, we tell them that they are not their family tree. If they have received the blessings of education, a stable home life and loving parents, they should consider themselves fortunate. They should be grateful.
If they have been challenged by difficulties, a lack of attentiveness, a world without care, we are sorry for their misfortune. But either way, they must find and pursue their path in the world. Their family tree will only carry them so far or suppress them so much. Their destiny is not their demographic.
Teens may think they have the luxury of lethargy. "My dad's rich, I don't need to study" or "I'll never amount to anything, why should I try?" Teens don't have the excuse of legacy for long. Sooner or later they will discover that they need to work for what they want.
Without a doubt, if children come from rich parents or an influential family, they're likely to have better options. But ultimately it's up to a child to make her life what she wants it to be. And it's up to you, Dad, to set the path.
Your teen's contributions to the world will be measured by effort and achievement. Life grants us limited free passes. Sooner or later, we have to get behind the wheel of our own lives, navigate through and around roadblocks, accept responsibility for our own wrong turns and appreciate the rewards of our successes.
Many of the teens we've spoken to are not well connected. Some have had to start over -- a few more than once. Those who have succeeded later in life will tell you that you can make a way for yourself despite your circumstances. Effort and determination make the difference.
We can all be better fathers. We can instill in our children a belief that, regardless of their circumstances, they can reach beyond their grasp, overcome obstacles and aspire to greatness As Jesse Owens, American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist, said: "We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort."
You may feel you haven't done the best job of being a dad. You may even think you've been pretty lousy at it at times. Well, we're here to tell you that you can be a difference maker in your child's life by being there, listening, serving as an example and cheering him on. It is never too late to become a better dad, to express and show love to your children, to serve as an exemplary role model, and to inspire your children to succeed.
Even if your child's formative years were not the best, you can provide the encouragement she needs to leave his background where it belongs -- in the past. Start by stepping up to the plate.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc.com. They are available for workshops. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.