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Most people think there are only two kinds of examples, good and bad. We assume good examples lead to good, and bad examples lead to bad. However, what is good and what is bad? These words are incredibly subjective. Good for what? Good for whom? How bad? Bad for how long?

Humans watch humans. It's kind of one of my favorite things, I love to people watch. I grew up watching my parents and older brother. They were my first examples of what marriage and family was. I witnessed lots of things, as you can imagine, including screaming, loud disagreements, rage, anger, love, fun, resourcefulness, disappointment, hard work, and so forth. We were a family and I was a part of that. My parents and brother were examples to me. They did everything right and everything wrong. I hated them with a passion and loved them with all my heart. I learned what I wanted and didn't want.

Were they good examples or bad?

My friend had an alcoholic grandpa. My friend witnessed many poor decisions and outcomes as a result of his grandpa's choices. When my friend was in high school he was acutely aware of what over drinking alcohol could lead to. With this information, he decided he wanted nothing to do with it.

Was this grandpa's example good or bad?

We think if our children only witness "good" examples they will turn out good. "The more good they see the more good they'll be." This is complete rubbish. We and our children are so very capable of taking in information, processing it, and deciding what we want and what we don't want.

When it comes to your teen's friends, I suggest they don't need and definitely don't want your help. What they actually need help in is deciphering which actions create which results and why. Their friend's example (good and bad) could be the exact opportunity you have been looking for to discuss the reality of consequences and what it is your teen wants and doesn't want.

About the Author:
Beth Hillman
Beth Hillman

Parent Program Director, Board Memeber

Utah Department of Human Services
Utah State Board of Education
California Department of Education
Cognia
Post Adoption Service
Greenwood Associates