Today’s Table Talk is by my friend Russ Keleman. One thing about Russ … he’s connected with kids.  He served on staff at Young Life for years and now teaches teens in the Dallas Independent School District. I asked him to opine on the issue of teen/tween apathy as it relates to life and education.

Thanks, Russ! … 

and thanks for walking the road with me.



Usually when a child has an “attitude about school that isn’t so good”, it’s because they’re experiencing trouble connecting with others at school (friends, teachers, etc) and/or aren’t feeling successful at school.  They also could be being picked on, made fun of or bullied.  The best way to find out is to talk to them.  And not just when they are upset.  Be an active listener.  Ask lots of questions.  Not as a judge but as a caring person in their life.  You don’t have to be a problem solver but a great listener.  Help them discover what’s bothering them and help them to think of solutions.

Kids desire 3 things:

  1. To be liked
  2. To be loved.
  3. To fit in/belong.
When those aren’t happening, they struggle.  Help them to make connections and find success.  I have seen kids turn around dramatically when they start making connections at school and finding success.

I’m not sure if this helps, Kay, but there are some thoughts.  I would do a lot more questioning of the parents to help identify specific things to do.

The following is something that I wanted to share with you. I share this with my students and as many parents as will listen!  Later on I ask the students to write their own 10 pieces of advice, as if they had kids!  Hope you enjoy it.



Code for Parents

A Rev C. Galea was assigned to the Guelph Correction Center  (in Canada) for his summer work.  While there, he developed an excellent rapport with many of the young lawbreakers. 

 He asked the boys for clues as to WHY they had ended up in that institution.  He then asked them to draw up a CODE for parents to follow, zeroing in on specific areas where THEY had failed.  The following list is what came out of their thoughts.

1. Keep Cool!  Don’t fly off the handle. Keep the lid on when things go wrong.  Kids need to see how much better things turn out when people keep their tempers under control.

2. Don’t get strung out from booze or too many pills.  When we see our parents reaching for those crutches, we get the idea that it is perfectly OK to reach for a pill when things get heavy.  Children are careful observers and great imitators.

3. Bug us a little.  Be strict.  Show us who’s boss.  We need to know we have got some strong support under us.  When you cave in, we get scared.

4. Don’t blow your class.  Stay on that pedestal.  Don’t try to dress, dance or talk like your kids.  You embarrass us and you look ridiculous.

5. Light a candle.  Show us the way.  Tell us God is NOT dead or sleeping or on vacation.  We need to believe in something bigger and stronger than ourselves.

6. Scare the HELL out of us
 If you catch us lying, stealing or being cruel, get tough.  Let us know WHY what we did was wrong.  Impress on us importance of not repeating such behavior.

7. When we need punishment, dish it out.  But let us know you still love us, even though we have let you down.  It will make us think twice before we make that same move again.

8. Call our bluffMake it clear you mean what you say.  Don’t compromise.  Don’t cave in.  And don’t be intimidated by our threats to drop out of school or leave home.  Stand up to us and we’ll respect you.  Kids don’t want everything they ask for. 

9. Be honest.  Tell us the truth no matter what.  And be straight-arrow about everything.  We can take it. Lukewarm answers make us uneasy.  We can smell uncertainty a mile away.  The bottom line is that we want you to tell it like it is.

10. Praise us when we deserve it.  If you give us a few compliments once in a while, we will be able to accept criticism a lot easier. 

High school health teacher, Russ Kelemen, can accurately be described as a “kid whisperer”.  They love him.  And he loves them.  At a mixed age gathering, it is only a matter of time before Russ has left the visiting adults and is off playing, wrestling and laughing with the kids.

Introduced to Christ through the ministry of Young Li
fe, Russ remains passionately involved in the ministry as a school teacher, committee member and camp counselor.

He is husband to his best friend, Cari, and proud father to Cooper, 16, Cassie, 13 and Catie, 11.  Hockey, basketball, photography and keeping up with friends and former students on Facebook fill up his leisure time, while his relationship with Jesus, his family and his extended family in Canada remain his priorities.

Through years of teaching, camping, and loving on kids of all ages, but especially Jr. and Sr. High students, Russ’ experience with youth give him a wit and a wisdom he is anxious to share with you all through Kay’s blog.  Enjoy! (Bio written by Cari Kelemen)

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