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

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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