At times we all act before we think. We snatch up a deal at the store only to realize later that we need three additional components (at regular price) in order to make it work. We utter an obscenity or make a rude gesture too quickly before we realize that our children are witnesses. We jump at a timeshare opportunity before we read the fine print and learn that we'll have to pay for a long time before we get to share anything. We buy our friend's boat at a steal with the dream of one day living near a body of water.
Those are exceptions, of course. Experience has taught us adults that we need to examine all the angles before we boldly go where no one has gone before. It's an acquired skill that comes with living for a lot of years — looking beyond the thrill of the moment to what may result down the road.
The Past Comes Back to Haunt
Think of the myriad politicians and other public figures whose past indulgences finally catch up to them. Some of their indiscretions may well have remained hidden except for the fact that they chose public service as a career a career path that invariably fixes the spotlight on truth and reveals unsettling consequences.
Teens Run on Different Software
Teenagers seldom think in the long-term. Their existence thrives on short-term investments of time and immediate rewards. They do what's hip at the moment. Their jargon changes with every new reality show. They act by reacting to what's popular and what's going viral. They're not programmed to think of consequences. Consequences are those things way out there in the future — that place that won't get here for a very long time. In their minds, there isn't even a link between what I do today and what today may do to me tomorrow.
Today Shapes and Shakes Up Tomorrow
That explains, in part, why you shake your head in disbelief at the spider-web tattoo that suddenly shows up on your son's arm. Or make a strange wounded-animal sound when you notice your daughter's belly-button ring glistening in the sunlight. Or ask "What did I ever do to deserve this?" when your dearly beloved offspring is a star on YouTube.
The consequences of some impulsive acts fade away over time. But we all know there are turns in a youngster's life that can have tragic consequences: Shrugging off school as a waste of time. Driving too fast. Experimenting with alcohol and drugs. Spending the night in jail. Becoming sexually active. Some consequences take life in a whole other direction.
Dads, talk to your teenagers about consequences. Help them to understand that the good — or the bad — that they do today will follow them and perhaps live long after them.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.