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11 Tiny Things Your Teen Won’t Regret In 11 Years

Photo: Afta Putta Gunawan | Pexels 
Teens hanging out together

As adults, we see a lot of what’s scary in the world. We look back at the stupid things we did when we were young and sometimes sit too long in that regret. Like a stupid and beautiful joke, those mistakes become part of what makes us who we are. Of course, some people don’t survive their mistakes or are scarred forever, and so as parents, we can easily get lost in trying to prevent the next generation from taking any risks.

As a result, we spend a lot of time telling teenagers and young adults that they’re bad, that what they’re doing is stupid, and how much they’re going to regret stuff in the future. Maybe it’s that we don’t necessarily understand their culture—and every generation does have a culture of its own—or maybe it’s just the natural order for older folks to worry a whole lot. But there’s a lot of greatness to being young: the intimacy of friendships, the intensity of love and kisses and cartwheels and connection, the wild and reckless need to explore and expand your experience.

RELATED: How To Give A Teenager Advice They'll Follow

Here are the 11 tiny things your teen won't regret in 11 years:

1. Talking to the person you think you’re too shy to approach

It doesn’t matter how it works out. Don’t go into it with an agenda, just have a conversation. Step out of the corner and be willing to make the mistake.

2. Standing up for a friend

Although many schools have strict anti-bullying policies, ending bullying cannot be done without the help of students who are willing to be upstanders. Not only can intervention stop the bullying, but it shows the bullied kid that somebody believes they are worthy of being treated well. You will never regret being the person who helped someone feel valued.

3. Being honest

There are going to be times in your life when it will be super easy to cheat, lie, steal, or betray confidence and you may even get away with it.

   

   

It’s easy to fall into the trap of pursuing perfection. The thing is, being who you are won’t take you to the wrong places if you’re making healthy choices. If you cheat your way into Harvard, you’re gonna either flunk out there or be miserable wherever you land afterward. The same goes for the rest of life.

You’re not going to regret being honest. You’re not going to regret having done the right thing. As a result, you’ll probably land in a place where you’re more comfortable and more able to be who you are.

4. Being your authentic self, even if others want you to change

Like cheating on a test, changing things about yourself to suit others is going to make you feel like crap somewhere deep inside. In the long run, even if you’re accepted because of those changes, you’ll never feel like the people around you are your true friends because it was never really who you were.

You’ll never look back and say to yourself, “Man, I wish I’d changed myself more to make people like me.”

RELATED: 5 Simple Ways To Be A More Authentic Person Every Day

5. Being good to kids, animals, and those smaller than you

You’ll be amazed at what helping little kids can do for your life and your self-esteem. Kids make us feel good about ourselves because they are so appreciative of what we give them. They’ll think you’re cool, and they’ll probably tell you in one way or another. Be a good role model, and you’ll become important in their lives, even for just a day. It’s always good to be reminded that you’re important.

You will never regret kindness, and everyone needs an ally. When you’re in your twenties or thirties, you won’t look back and wish you’d participated when your buddies were shooting birds in their nests for no good reason, or when your girlfriends were hitting turtles with their cars. What you’ll remember is helping the lost dog or mentoring the kid who needed a friend.

6. Buying someone coffee

Every once in a while, pick up the tab. It’s nice, and if you’re cool about it, people will simply appreciate the gesture. You can always say, “You can grab the next round.” You’ll never regret true generosity.

11 Things Your Teen Won’t Regret in 11 YearsPhoto: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Bonus: Pay for the coffee of a hero in line behind you — a firefighter, cop, or member of the armed forces.

Caveat: Don’t become the chump all the cool kids use to buy them stuff. Do it out of generosity, not out of a need to be liked or thanked. Once you start doing stuff to get something in return, you’re being manipulative — not generous.

7. Being good to the earth

I know, I know, you guys know all about recycling and reducing your carbon footprint. You could probably teach us a few things. But you know you could always do more. Ride-share, stop using disposable cups when you go to Starbucks (bonus, you get 10c back every time you bring in your cup!), and take your water from home instead of buying one in a plastic bottle from the vending machine.

None of us know what the future of this planet looks like, but when you’re the keepers of this earth, you’ll never regret having done what you could to keep it clean.

8. Learning to play the guitar

The same applies to the piano, drums, or whatever instrument sounds fun. First, not much is hotter than a guy or girl who can play an instrument. Second, you can start a band. Now, as a kid, or later as an adult. Third, if you’re still in school, your parents might pay for your lessons — and trust me, that’ll never happen again in your life. Fourth, learning music can make you smarter.

RELATED: 5 Reasons To Love A Man Who Plays Guitar

9.  Being the most sober person at the party

This may be super uncool for me to say, but you will never regret being the least drunk kid at the party. Why? Well, consider some of the advantages:

  • If the cops show up, you can get in your car and drive away without worrying about being arrested or harming someone else.
  • If something dangerous is happening at the party – such as a fire risk, too many people on an upstairs balcony, or even a predator who is looking to harm people or steal from them, you will be able to assess that danger and react to it to better protect yourself and others.
  • You can decide for yourself who’s sober enough to drive you home. When you’re buzzed, it’s harder to tell who’s too wasted to drive. This is for your protection and others. Take your friends’ keys if they’re too drunk to drive. You’ll never regret having intervened, but you may regret doing nothing if someone is hurt or killed.
  • You don’t have to worry as much about doing something stupid that others will undoubtedly capture on their phones and put on the Internet for eternity.
  • If you do end up hooking up with someone, you’ll be better able to assess your partner’s enthusiastic consent. Is he or she really into it, or are they just too buzzed to care? If you’re buzzed too, you might not make a great decision about moving forward with the hookup. If you’re sober, you’ll know the person is really into you.

Another bonus: Drunk lovers generally make crappy lovers, and wouldn’t you rather blow your partner’s mind with your responsiveness and skills?

I promise you, you’ll probably never look back and say, “Man, I wish I’d been more drunk that night!” but we’ve all heard the opposite a billion times. Even more importantly, you never want to wonder whether you had full consent from your partner – after all, sex without consent is rape.

Caveat: Just because you’re sober doesn’t mean everyone around you can take advantage of you and get drunk as skunks with the expectation that you’ll take care of them. Follow your gut here — being an upstander, helping others, and preventing disaster are important, but if you’re the only one doing it over and over and over, you may be enabling irresponsible or dangerous behavior. Take yourself out of that situation. After all, only jerks take advantage of others like that, and wouldn’t you rather have friends whom you know you can rely upon, too?    

10. Intervening when a friend is about to take advantage of someone drunk or high

This one you may not have heard as often, but it’s just as important. You’ve probably seen it before: You’re at a party and there’s one drunk girl on the couch who seems really out of it. A guy goes over to her and starts chatting her up. Maybe he has great intentions, maybe he has bad intentions. Regardless of whether you’re a guy or a girl, you won’t regret keeping an eye on that situation to possibly help prevent someone from being raped. We all know “friends don’t let friends drive drunk”, well it’s also true that friends don’t let friends commit rape.

Caveat: New evidence suggests that men and boys are raped more often than we have ever understood, and guys and girls must stand up for the men in their lives too. There are a lot of stories of guys who’ve been drunk or otherwise incapacitated being raped by women or men, and those guys deserve to be protected as well.

11. Doing something dangerous safely. 

This means skydiving, snowboarding, kite surfing, zip-lining, skating, cliff-diving, rock climbing, surfing, or whatever other well-tested and reputable means of professionally-supervised adrenaline-inducing activities you might enjoy. You won’t regret taking well-calculated risks, and trust the old folks—as you get older, you’ll probably be less likely to do this awesome stuff.

Bonus: Laughing stupidly

Every generation of teenagers has their stupid things to laugh about, and it almost always annoys older people. My mom still talks about being in high school and laughing so hard with her best friend that she fell off her horse. I remember floating out in Lake Michigan with my friends and laughing until I almost couldn’t swim. The older folks on the beach glowered at our racket, but obnoxious and endless laughter is a part of being young. Embrace it. Laugh like a moron. I don’t know why, but something about growing older makes ridiculous laughter less common. You’ll never look back and say, “I wish I’d laughed more quietly.”

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Joanna Schroeder is a writer, editor, and media critic. She is co-author of the forthcoming book, Talk To Your Boys: 27 Crucial Conversations To Have With Your Teenage Sons (Workman Publishing), and publishes on Substack. Her bylines include The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Esquire, Redbook, and Vox.

This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.