How Teens Become Responsible Adults

In this world of working parents and video games, in some families, teens can go through childhood and adolescence without a real sense of responsibility. They’re occupied, but not prepared for a successful life. Having responsibility for things that matter and that contribute to the welfare of others is part of a teen’s preparation for the future.

Responsibility can be defined as the ability to be answerable or accountable for something within one’s power, control or management.

In her article, “Is There a Responsible Adult Trapped Inside your Teenager?“, Elizabeth Wilkins refers to Robert Epstein, PhD, who says that kids in America would be well-served by being given much more responsibility.

Author of the book, The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen, Dr. Epstein contends that teens are very capable and aren’t given enough responsibility or credit in their daily lives.

He makes the point that in our society, adolescence is an artificial extension of childhood, which means the teen has too much idle time. On average, he says teens actually spend 70% of their time with peers and the media, making them the role models rather than their own parents or other healthy mentors in their lives.

So, how can a teen develop a sense of responsibility and the accountability to go with it?

I believe the potential for these things is built in, and is developed through modeling from parents and other role models. Parents can help the process when a child is growing up by first modeling tasks necessary for the family as a whole, and second watching how the teen takes to the tasks.

Parents don’t need to scream and yell to get them to comply… just model responsibility for them, and then watch them to identify ways to draw upon their natural skills when contributing to the family.

When a family volunteers together for the benefit of others, parents are modeling for their kids the responsibility they feel for their community, and the value of contributing to the welfare of others outside themselves.

There’s also a place for contributing to the family, too. Teens who help younger siblings with necessary chores such as lawn care or dishes, have the opportunity to model responsible behavior for their younger family members, while also contributing to the family as a whole.

It’s a way of life that’s introduced by his parents, but becomes a part of him. As he grows, he takes it into himself as his own.

From what I’ve seen in my practice, kids with this background have a better sense of direction as well. They know what they want and go after it with an intense level of confidence.

And along with accountability comes self-assurance. When he fulfills responsibilities entrusted to him, he gains a sense of empowerment. His self-esteem grows, his confidence grows and he knows within himself that he’s capable and learning more all the time. The praise he receives for his accomplishments is authentic, and he knows it’s real.

What’s most important is moving him from dependence to independence, as well as providing experiences where his efforts contribute to someone else, or the family as a whole, and then for those outside himself and his family. Eventually, he’s providing for his own needs, and recognizes the necessity of his own effort to make his way in the world.

The 6 Friends Your Teen Should Avoid

Great friends are hard to find and important to keep. You know this from experience. But it may not be as clear for your teen. High school is a difficult place to find people who will bring value to your teen’s life. There is so much emphasis on social groups that it’s tough for teens to be themselves, both outside and inside these groups.

Your teen needs to learn to seek out friends who contribute value to his life. These are people who earn his trust and by whom he wants to be trusted. These are the friends that last. They’re faithful in tough times, they listen and respect your teen as he respects them. They share interests loftier than group acceptance. In fact, they circumvent the social caste system found in high school to build their own place in the world.

Here are some tips for talking to your teen when low quality friendships begin to create problems.

First, let’s talk about the ones he may want to consider dumping:

1. The “it’s all about me” friend only considers themselves in every situation and gives no attention to others. While it’s true that everyone is selfish at some point, it’s important to know who is going to step up in life when your teen needs them. The person who is only focused on themselves will not be there in time of need. Encourage your teen to dump the “all about me” friend.

2. The friend who is negative about everything. This kid will suck the energy right out of your teen with his constant attention on misery. “Life sucks, my friends suck, my parents suck and school is awful.” When you talk with your teen about friendships, encourage him to not let himself be pulled into this way of thinking.

It’s defeating, not energizing. But, life is actually amazing. And it’s also hard. And it’s the combination of ups and downs that help us grow and gain confidence, and learn wisdom to make better decisions as we go. Help your teen begin to understand that when life is hard he’s truly living:

The problem + the struggle for solutions = the victory. It’s all in the rich concoction of living.

A negative person doesn’t think this way and will not easily change his outlook. This person is not receptive to learning, only to blaming. Encourage your teen to have the courage to dump “Mr. or Ms. Negative.”

3. The user is the friend who uses your teen when it’s convenient. When they are the only two people around, he uses him for company and as a sounding board. But let anyone else join the group and suddenly, this kid doesn’t know your child at all. Ignores him completely. Then, when your child speaks up to contribute to the conversation, the user shuts it down. He wants your child to be invisible to the group. This individual is typically immature and insecure and his behaviors may be to help himself feel stronger, but he’s not offering value to your child’s life. There is no room in your teen’s life for a user. Encourage him to dump that selfish, controlling kid.

4. The hater is the kid who hates everybody and everything. He believes everyone is out to get him including his parents, his friends and school. His attitude makes it impossible to connect with him and his outlook is contagious. Encourage your teen to think about how much value someone like this brings to his life. How is it helpful to your child to listen to this all the time? Can he really afford such draining influence? Help him have the courage to dump the hater.

5. The mean kid is not a friend to anyone. This kid can be really cruel and downright mean. He gets his affirmation from tormenting others and expects his friends to back him up. He’s the stereotypical bully of the worst kind. He is empowered by dictating the lives of others and having a posse to enforce his control. It’s important that you teach your kid that this kid is NOT allowed to dictate his life. Help him understand that the mean kid is the one with the issue, and cruel words directed at your son or daughter is not your child’s issue, but rather a weakness and fault with that kid. When your teen learns that the mean kid has nothing to offer him, it can save him a lot of distress. Equip your teen to dump mean kids… whether they are mean to your son or daughter, or to someone else.

6. The victim, a.k.a. “poor me” friend is always looking for advice for their problems. Find the opportunity to talk to your teen about friends like this… and demonstrate with stories of your own how to avoid getting sucked into the force field of this type of friend. While it may feel good to your teen to be able to help someone else, it can be destructive to feel his only value is to be a therapist to his peers. Ironically, when your child has a need to talk to someone about his own problems, the victim friend won’t have time for him. Your teen isn’t a therapist and shouldn’t be. He or she needs friends who carry their own weight, share core interests, and enjoy similar activities.

Cultivate conversations with your teenager about friendships. Suggest he or she consider their circle of friends and take note as to whether or not they fit into any of these categories. Help him think about the friends in his life that truly add value to his life and demonstrate character and integrity.

Out of all of all them, he may not find more than one or two who display the qualities he’d like to have in friends. But show him how important it is to his future and personal development to build healthy friendships with healthy people who have the ability to give and receive the things that matter, and brush away those things that don’t.

Step Back and Watch Your Child Build His Own Self-Esteem

“My child looks sad and walks with his head down, hiding his face with his hoodie.” Parents say this to me all the time. “I don’t know what to do, what to say, to make him feel better. What should we do?”

Your teen’s body language says it all. His self-esteem is in the toilet. Talking about his feelings to get to the root of the problem may be what you believe is the best way to help him, but a different approach is likely to bring far better results.

Self-esteem is built through the work, determination and tenacity of life experiences. Not so much through reassurance.

I say this often to parents of my clients. Instead of pressing on his fears, trying to verbally reassure him by talking about feelings, or even seeking help… take a breath and step back.

Allow your child the space necessary to work his or her way out of their current situation. I realize this sounds like you’re doing nothing, even abandoning him in time of need. But what you’re doing by stepping back is providing him with the space to make decisions, solve problems, and learn to do it composed while under pressure.

When your child is struggling with self esteem or confidence in his current situation, change your parenting pattern.

Stop telling your son or daughter how great they are. We do this too often, believing that they’ll believe our words more than their own thoughts. More than their circumstances. More than the words of their peers. They need to see proof, rather than hear more words. And that proof comes from their own problem-solving.

Never forget that every moment he’s learning how to live.

Most parents believe their child is the greatest, but they must also learn that constant praise is dangerous territory. We parents have the best of intentions, but in my work with teens and young adults I’ve learned that kids who are only praised when struggling, struggle more.

It’s like giving them a ticket out of life’s learning process. Improving life skills takes work, resilience, consistency and many failures. Resist the urge to bail them out. When we praise our children they feel this immediate pay off, and it stunts the growing up process because they stop moving forward. They get the idea that because of their greatness, life will always go their way. And it doesn’t.

Another pitfall we parents must learn to curb is praising our child when it’s undeserved. This seems like one big fat lie to them and deep in their gut they know it is. They know they didn’t earn it. They just feel confused.

When we tell them they’re the best at everything or the smartest of all, it creates a problem when they figure out they aren’t. Let’s not raise a bunch of ego maniacs who don’t have the skills to live healthy, rounded lives. Let’s not set them up to feel like hypocrites and pretenders. Let’s teach them how to have the skills necessary by toning down the praise and encouraging the battles. Encouraging determination. Encouraging resilience.

Then we’ll begin to see our children completing tasks, working through their own struggles and growing up.

Then you have something worth praising! Praise that!

Self-esteem is developed through work, effort, failing and eventually overcoming challenges.Not by what an individual is constantly told. What’s far more satisfying is the courage to keep getting back up and trying to find a solution.

Of course, it’s better to be positive in your encouragement of your child than negative, but let the encouragement be that you have confidence that he’ll find his way through this problem, rather than praising him for who he is, before he’s accomplished any victory.

When your daughter can’t do a math problem, this is a good thing. Are you tempted to do it for her? Of course, but also know that doing it yourself robs her of finding she can learn to do it, and gain prowess in the process. Help isn’t a bad thing, but it should be in the form of pointing in a direction, not providing answers. Each time she figures it out herself, her self-esteem grows a bit.

Stop worrying about your child, but rather encourage him.

When that feeling hits you to sit and talk about all the negative feelings consider that it may increase the negative thinking patterns. Instead, help them change this pattern by encouraging them to:

    • Make their own decisions, recognizing guidance is available if they need it
  • Go after what they want
  • Pursue things in life that boost their excitement

Arm yourself as a parent with the confidence that you’re guiding them down a long tested and proven path for building mastery in the skills they need to pursue the life they dream. It really is this simple because when we’re excited:

    • A lot more is possible and our self-esteem grows
  • We want to learn, create, imagine
  • We (and our kids) can handle the world and all its chaos

And remember, even if your style as a parent has always been to sit your teen down and push for understanding feelings and struggles and the root behind them, there’s no time like the present to start a new strategy. If your child seems emotionally overloaded, struggling, confused, and lacking confidence… try the new strategy of encouraging them to get back in the game.

Meanwhile, model your own resilience, determination, and courage, so they can see it working. You really are their role model … show them how it’s done. And never forget the value of telling stories of your own life, discouragements, failures, and victories. Those stories will whisper in their ears when the going gets tough, and will keep them going.

With patience, you’ll begin to see that same child who had walked with his chin hanging, now taking on challenges and breaking a sweat doing it. And when the task is complete? You’ll see your formerly sullen teen glow with pride.

That is self-esteem.

5 Ways Summer Camp Helps Your Child Prepare for Adulthood

When I think back on my own camp experience, I recall standing on a wooden tower about 10, maybe 15, feet off the ground. Several people I had recently met stood below. They were yelling at me to fall. I’d just met these people; why on earth would I trust them enough to catch me? I put my arms across my chest and fell back through the air. Whack! I’d been caught.

Experiences like these summer after summer brought about remarkable transformations in my life. I learned how to trust others, work with others and build relationships. This ultimately helped me to grow up.

Summer camp taught me foundational principles I now rely on as an adult. As a professional mentor, I encourage many of my clients to attend summer camp if possible. Watching kids and teens grow as a result of their summer experiences is incredible. Each summer, it’s obvious they have grown and matured.

When your child attends summer camp, he learns how to work with others, build meaningful relationships, accept guidance and develop decision-making skills. All of these life skills nurture independence and confidence, creating a foundation that will serve him and that he’ll stand and grow from for the rest of his life.

So how can your child benefit from summer camp?

1. At camp, kids learn teamwork, i.e., working together for the benefit of something bigger than themselves: the team. This takes attention away from “me, me, me,” and turns it toward the value of investing in others.

They learn that their relationships benefit from investment, and that the team benefits as a whole when individual relationships are strengthened. Contributing to the success of the group is empowering to each individual.

2. The camp environment teaches resilience. Kids learn to fall then get back up time and time again. One example is the ropes course, a challenging outdoor, team-building activity that you often find at camp.

Kids have to learn resilience to get through the course as they will undoubtedly fall, and have to get back up over and over. As they progress through the course their confidence builds, and in turn they accomplish a task that seems impossible… and accomplishment is always empowering.

3. Kids learn to make decisions at camp. Camp experiences grow confidence and develop good decision making skills — especially when times are tough. He also learns who to accept guidance from, in a world that’s filled with some pretty bad advice on TV, in movies and among some friends.

4. Camp sets a kid up for trying new things, putting himself out there, and making decisions to get through various situations.

Living in a cabin, cooking food, climbing ropes, and overcoming obstacles are life accomplishments young people can develop that build strength of character, courage, determination, and focus on something bigger than themselves.

As parents, we know when children only accept comfortable situations, they find themselves limited in confidence, courage, and flexibility. The actual presentation of an unpleasant or unfamiliar situation at camp gives a child the opportunity to grow in ways he never would in his comfort zone.

Through new experiences, he’s pushed into positions to grow in life. And when teens learn to push themselves to grow, they begin to accumulate understanding of what it takes to be a productive, independent adult.

5. Help your child to grow up.

While more and more our culture allows people to seek out what’s enjoyable and avoid what’s unpleasant, camp nudges your child to move out of their comfort zone to overcome.

So while our conveniences make life easier in so many ways, there are experiences missing that provide growth, strengthening of values, confidence, and development for times of adversity. Those experiences need to come from somewhere, and I encourage my clients to go to camp and absorb all the life benefits they’ll find there.

If your family can’t afford to send your kid to camp, and many can’t, try to mimic the same opportunities and experiences at home that they’d find at camp. Push to try new things, push him out of his comfort zone. Allow him to make his own decisions. Create some obstacles for him to overcome.

No matter what, it will require focus and effort to guide your child. There are many ways you can help your child gain the benefits of camp to ensure he’s equipped for adulthood. In this modern world, it won’t happen automatically. But your effort will be well worth the energy you invest.

Teens, Character and the Myth That Keeps Them Apart

Co-authored by Jason Gracia, Founder and CEO of VantagePoint Inc, and author of Shifting the Balance.

The moral character of our teens is deteriorating at a terrifying pace. We see proof in every corner of our lives, from bullying at school to laziness at work to self-absorption at home. If the children are our future, tomorrow will most certainly be filled with hordes of entitled, hormone-infused teenagers waiting for the world to see to their every unreasonable demand.

Or will it?

Though prevailing wisdom consistently casts stones at our youth, the reality is far brighter than they would have you believe. In fact, the qualities we hope for in our children surround us, waiting to be recognized and multiplied. You’ve been fed a lie.

From Maxine Coady, a teen volunteer with local hospitals, food pantries and community restoration projects (along with a stint in Zambia to nurture the lion population) to Lauren Samz, Greta Pohlman, and Chloe Johnson, advocates for animal rights, epilepsy research, and women in engineering respectively, the teens of today leave me convinced that the character we feared was missing is alive and well.

The Parent’s Role

In my work with families, I often find the respect and compassion demonstrated by the teens above is present, but sleeping. It needs a trigger to emerge and grow. That trigger is you. Time and again I’ve witnessed the undeniable truth about parenting: Nothing so influences what your child will do as what you have done. It’s your example that leads the way to success or to failure.

By focusing on your own expressions of character — instead of what your teen lacks — you’ll not only follow a better path, you’ll help your children follow closely behind. Below are a handful of ideas of help get you started.

Gratitude: Show an appreciation for what you have been given and worked to achieve. It’s far too easy to expect our children to be grateful while we complain about not having enough. By clearly appreciating your opportunities — and helping your children recognize their own — you’ll replace the curse of entitlement with gratitude and thankfulness.

Anna Gamm, 16, is a teen whose understanding of gratitude affects her on a daily basis. “I’m committed to helping people because I’ve been fortunate growing up. I was raised in a privileged home and feel if I don’t use that privilege to help those less fortunate I’m wasting my opportunity.” Because her parents took the time to explain the importance of appreciation, this teen exudes character. Yours will do the same.

Giving Back: In my work as a mentor, I’m constantly reminded how strong the need to contribute is among children and teens. We can’t help it. We’re designed to experience pleasure with the slightest gesture of giving back, which is why so many of the teens I meet with are focused on helping family and friends, school and community.

You can once again lead by example, as with gratitude, but even better is opening a door. Teens want to help. Let them. Work together to find opportunities where their time and attention can make a difference. Whether volunteering at a food bank, helping to build homes for those in need, or even spending an afternoon talking with someone who has no one else to talk to, these moments of giving back will make a profound difference in the lives of everyone involved.

Respect: When it comes to respect, it’s give to get. Offer your teens respect first and you’ll soon receive it in kind. Show respect to others, regardless of station or creed or color, and you’ll soon find your teen showing that same respect to the people in their lives. (Many of the parents I work with are actually surprised to find their teens more accepting than they are. What better chance to learn a lesson from your kids?)

Respect is a mirror. If you’re not getting what you want, chances are you — and not your teen — need to make an adjustment.

Integrity: Do what’s right, even when it’s not easy. Teens will turn to past examples when faced with a difficult decision. When they turn to you, will you be happy with the one they find? If not, start with a clean slate of integrity. Do the good, hard work that needs to be done, regardless of how difficult you find the task. And when you do, involve your teen, explaining the decision and why the harder path was the right one to choose.

When the time comes for your teen to make her own tough decisions, your example will be one to live up to and one of which you can both be proud.

Honesty: One of the most powerful expressions of honesty is admitting when you’re wrong. It’s not easy, especially for a parent, but it will make an impression on your teen that lasts long after accepting blame. How can you expect your teens to be honest when you can’t tell the truth?

Admit your mistakes. Your teen will admire you for it and live up the example when the time comes. Show your teen how to take responsibility for his actions by always taking responsibility for your own.

Character isn’t dead. It’s dormant. By leading with your example, you’ll bring it to the surface within your teen and, when you do, recognize it, applaud it and nurture it as best you can. Soon enough, you’ll realize the better nature of your teen was always there, just beneath the surface, waiting for you to clear the path to the top.

5 Tips to Transform Teen School Indifference to Engagement

Is your teen struggling in school? Does he seem apathetic? Have you lectured, grounded and threatened until you have no idea what else to do?

Here are some tips for helping your teen feel better and function better — while improving your relationship with him.

1. First, relax. Remind yourself that it’s one grade, one class, one semester; not the rest of his life. As you look back over your own life, remember that those pitfalls and oversights, failures and screw ups didn’t bring your life to a screeching halt. You know there are consequences, but your teen has to learn that too. Give him room to learn.

Try not to make this incident or semester a catastrophe. If you do, it only increases your own anxiety and the anxiety your child deals with every day. His anxiety about the future is much greater than he tells you. He needs relief from it, not having it pounded into him. He already gets it. That’s why he’s withdrawing.

Things said to him like, “he won’t make it in the future if he doesn’t perform now,” just aren’t helpful. That really makes things worse.

For his sake and yours, manage your own state of mind. Model for him the way to manage anxiety. Show him (don’t tell him) what it looks like to deal with a lot of work, while taking care of yourself and functioning at a high level. Whether you realize it or not, your kid watches your every move. Your life speaks much louder to him than anxiety-laden words.

2. Next, focus on resilience. In the course of the day, tell stories about things you experienced in school, things that relate to your child’s difficulties. Reminisce about those struggles out loud when you’re at the dinner table, walking the mall or in the car. Make it a casual family conversation that pops up at any time and show your teen what it was like for you to be overwhelmed, to fail, to feel like giving up. Include the process you went through to pick yourself back up and try again. Demonstrate through your experiences what was hard and how you got yourself on track again.

Parents need to stop saying, “I don’t understand what’s going on because it’s clear to me that you’re really smart.” This doesn’t work. It doesn’t even hit on the real problem.

Learn to break the pattern of lecturing as a parent. Your teen glazes over and doesn’t hear it, but does feel misunderstood and unsupported. Try instead to listen, and be vulnerable enough to display your own weaknesses. How you overcame them in the short term or the long term. These stories give him hope.

Sometimes it’s more important for your kid to fail and learn from it than it is for him to be pushed through by you. So when you see him struggle, stretch your memory and put yourself in his shoes. Show him you do know what it’s like to struggle, and sometimes even fail.

This is an ongoing conversation… and he’ll carry these stories the rest of his life – so be generous with your own life lessons. The effect is more significant than you can imagine … and carries far more impact than any lecture.

3. React differently. If your child seems apathetic about school and you’re struggling with it, there’s a good chance that what you’re currently doing may not be working. So try a different response.

For instance, try to respond with empathy rather than anger. Put yourself in your teen’s shoes. Consider the pressure he feels to get into college, get good grades, do well on SAT and ACT, and decide on his major. Do you really want to add to his pressure …?

It’s all just too much for a teen to handle, and he still has to deal with daily social issues and responsibilities. It’s tempting to lose your temper — but consider all this before you let yourself launch into a lecture. Empathy will help deflate the pressure rather than add to it.

Also keep in mind that he can think and function most effectively in a somewhat relaxed frame of mind. Lecturing and anger from his parents reduces his confidence and self respect, short circuiting his best abilities. Then his energies are spent recovering, setting him back further from his productivity.

4. Change your approach with teachers. Your child’s teachers are in his life to help him. They aren’t the enemy. Partner with them… collaborate for your child’s improvement.

Ideally, it’s best if you can encourage your teen to take this approach himself. If he can get on a collaborative plane with his teachers, he’ll have another motivating victory. But if you do need to get involved, work as a team with your child and his teacher. Model a team attitude for him.

5. Remember your anxiety is your anxiety. It’s yours to deal with… so stop yourself from dumping it on your overwhelmed teenager.

Take a breath, and acknowledge this to yourself before you attempt to communicate with your teen. You have to throw out your own ‘garbage’ before you can help guide your child. At the very least, know it’s there and manage it. For your sake, his sake, and for your relationship.

Let him make his own choices and deal with the consequences. Guidance is ok but step back. You want him to become an adult, to grow up. So you must give him the space to do so.

One last thought: In helping your teen work through the struggles of life, take the time to ask yourself these questions:

1. What really gets my child excited and how can I encourage that?
2. What questions or stories can I use to that will help him explore this direction?

It’s so easy for him to get caught up in a tough assignment or an overwhelming semester, and feel so beat up he can’t see past it. Then he can forget there’s so much more to life … and to live for.

This approach will help your teen to see the bigger picture and find joy and purpose in life. When that happens, some of these other struggles begin to take care of themselves.

Parenting an All-Star: Perspective From Mike Trout and His Mom

In my practice working with families and teens, I’m on a continual quest to find out what values best prepare teens to become healthy, well-adjusted adults. Last week, I had an incredible opportunity to talk with Mike Trout and his mom, Debbie, to learn a little bit about what Mike’s parents did to raise him to be the successful, down-to-earth adult he is today.

Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s centerfielder and the 2014 American League’s Most Valuable Player, is one of baseball’s rising stars. But there are two stars who have had a big hand in the 24-year-old’s success – two stars you don’t hear about that often. They are Mike’s parents, Debbie and Jeff Trout. Here is what I learned about how Debbie and Jeff contributed to Mike’s success.

Respect

Mr. and Mrs. Trout did an all-star job of parenting Mike and his two siblings. They taught the children to have balance in their lives, to treat everyone with respect, and to put victories and losses in perspective. They instilled in Mike the values that have made him what he is today – a hard-working, honorable, and still-humble adult who, despite his $144.5 million contract, is thrilled each and every day to be playing big league baseball. It’s worth examining how the Trouts raised their budding athletic star to be a responsible, level-headed young man who hasn’t let success go to his head.

“We told him, be a good person, and everything else will take care of itself,” Debbie Trout said in an exclusive interview. “You be kind, and you be respectful. We have friends that Mike still calls ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ He still calls them that, and you don’t hear that very often these days.”

Let Kids Be Kids

The Trouts had rules for their children, but they never forced them to participate in sports or other activities they didn’t enjoy. As long as they were being respectful, they wanted their children to enjoy themselves. Jeff had been a minor-league ball player in the Minnesota Twins farm system, before an injury cut his career short, but he never forced Mike to play baseball.

“We let them be kids,” Mrs. Trout said. “A lot of these parents take promising kids and don’t let them have a life beyond baseball. We let them go out with their friends and go fishing and play other sports. Some parents don’t let their kids put down a ball all year round and that was not what we did at all.”

“If we had to put their uniform on them, drag them out to practice – that wasn’t for them, obviously.”

Luckily, the Trouts didn’t have that problem with Mike.

“He slept in his uniform when he was in T-ball,” Mrs. Trout said. “The day of the game, he would have it on right after school and after that he would go play and he would sleep in it.”

Letting Mike choose what to do made a big difference – a difference Mike appreciates to this day.

“I can’t ask for better parents. From day one, my dad told me if he had to force me to do something, he didn’t want me to do it,” Mike Trout told me. “I just always wanted to play baseball. I wasn’t that cocky kid, I just went out there and played. I had fun playing. You just go out there and play the game every day.”

The Trouts also taught Mike to have a “Plan B” in case baseball didn’t work out. Before Mike was selected in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft, he committed to play baseball at East Carolina University, and he was prepared to go to college.

“Plan B was to get an education,” Mike said. “I wanted to become a teacher like my parents.”

Healthy Balance

The importance of leading a balanced life, in terms of family and even nutrition, as well as sports, was something that Jeff and Debbie Trout taught Mike, his sister Teal and brother Tyler. The Trouts would cook a healthy meal for their children when they sat down to dinner in their home in Millville, N.J.

“We ate dinner together at least five nights a week,” Debbie Trout said. “Even if it was on the way to baseball game and practice, and it’s pizza in the car. Make sure dinner with your family is always together. And we would talk. Just talk to your kids… if you want to have healthy kids. To this day, on Thanksgiving, you have to put your cell phones in a box when you walk in the door.”

Mike, of course, can’t eat dinner with the family when he’s on the road during baseball season, but he has retained the lessons he learned from his parents about the importance of good health and good nutrition – and balance in his training.

He works out in the offseason, doing strength, stretching and agility exercises and other activities that don’t involve a baseball and a bat. He also works during the season to stay healthy.

When you’re on the road during the grueling 162-game baseball season, he said, it’s important to “keep your body in shape. Eat good foods, make sure you’re eating your greens.” Trout said he tends to get dehydrated, so he needs something to keep himself hydrated. “I cramp up a lot. When I started up with BodyArmor, it was probably the best thing I’d ever done. On and off the field.” (Mike Trout is an investor in and has an endorsement deal with BodyArmor sports drinks.)

One of the few times Mike’s parents had to coax him into a specific behavior when it came to sports was, ironically, because he was so competitive. Mike was 8 or 9 years old and was pitching for the town championship. His team lost, 1-0 and he didn’t want to go out and accept the second-place trophy.

Debbie said she looked at Mike and said, “If you don’t go out there, you are not playing baseball ever again. I meant it, I was so embarrassed. He went out there (to accept the second place trophy) and stomped back.”

But Mike learned a valuable lesson. “I think deep down that was a moment,” Debbie Trout said. “He knew he had to hang with it, that you come in second place sometimes.”

Mike had learned that in order to succeed, one has to take the wins with the losses and keep moving forward.

Role Models and Mentors

In addition to the role his parents played in his life, Mike is the player – and the man – he is today because of several role models and mentors from the world of sports.

As Mike was growing up, a major-league role model was Derek Jeter of the Yankees, not only for the way he played, but the professional way he handled himself. Albert Pujols and Torii Hunter, two Angels stars, were role models and mentors to Mike after he joined the Angels.

Despite his great talent, Mike Trout is still practicing what his parents taught him about respect, especially with the more experienced ball players he meets.

“Being respectful is huge in life,” he said. “Not just in baseball just in general in life. If you respect someone, they’ll respect you back.”

When he first made it to the big leagues, he said, he earned the respect of the veterans by being humble.

“I think it would have been different if I had come up and been this cocky little kid, talking smack to people,” he said.

Despite being one of baseball’s biggest stars, Mike Trout is still that humble and respectful young man today, thanks to the lessons his parents instilled in him.