Every Kid Needs a Trophy

Every Kid Needs a Trophy

Today, we have a guest writer on the Teen Life blog! Seth Nichols is married to our Program Director, Beth. Seth has taught public school for 10 years and prior to that worked as a full-time youth minister. Take a look at what he had to say this week!


Emotionally speaking, our kids today have one of the most challenging paths to adulthood of any generation in history.

My wife, Beth, finished the Cowtown Marathon in 2010. It took every ounce of willpower and determination she had to eek out a glorious 5-hour finish time in a puddle of sweat and tears.

Today, as we were cleaning out drawers, our 5-year-old found her participant’s medal.

“Mommy–did you get first place?!”

After a snarky laugh, the response came– “Sometimes, buddy, you get a medal just for not quitting.”


Some people say our kids today are entitled.  That they’re too soft.  That they need a trophy for everything.

Maybe they do.

The race they are running isn’t the same one many of us coasted through 30 or 50 years ago.

Theirs runs
up mountains of expectations,
against the winds of financial hardship and class separation,
through rains of data-driven critique,
far from home,
alone from adult interaction,
lost in a cyber-world that threatens YouTube clips any time they trip or #fail.

Their race is not for the faint of Spirit.

Every distance runner knows that the worst part of any race is the head-game.  Of course they’re sensitive. But the fact that they are still running means they’re also courageous.  They may not be making record time. But just by their not quitting, we are witnessing cause for celebration.

It isn’t easy.  Disconnection and isolation can make even a comfy Suburban life seem impossibly difficult.

So cheer your kids on today.  They need you.  Resist those grumpy voices in your head from past generations that say you’re being too soft, that you’re encouraging entitlement, that you’re making them too thin-skinned.


Trust me when I say– life in the 21st century will make them calloused enough without your help.


After 15 years of youth work, I have come to this conclusion: our kids are entitled. They are entitled to every drop of our scant praise, our scarce love and our meager encouragement to keep on running.  They are entitled because they are our kids.

The course set for them is long and hard.  And we may just be witnessing the miracle of the human spirit with every graduation, every new class, and every next step.


So give your kids a trophy.  Let love flow freely, and critique run dry.  And with your little morsel of praise to nudge them on, who knows what mountains they may conquer next?

A Few Words on Courage

A Few Words on Courage

The older I get, the more I think it’s all about courage. When we find new and creative ways to instill courage into the lives of our kids – they win.

And, I’m not really talking about “getting ahead”. I’m talking about the small things of life.


Telling the truth.

Looking out for the little guy.

Trying something new.

Saying you are sorry.

And, meaning it.

Putting the work in.

Taking responsibility.

Showing up.



Getting back up.

Trying again.


Teenagers, of all the people in this world, are positioned well to live with courage. For the most part, people don’t depend on them for their livelihood, so they can explore, make mistakes, and pivot when necessary. Within the bounds of the law, the consequences for failing tend to be less than adults who have families and careers. Teenagers tend to see the world with more naive and hopeful eyes – issues that can be solved or addressed with just one good idea. While those who are older roll their eyes and pat on the head – teenagers seem to expect their actions to actually make a difference and change environments.

The adolescent years are the perfect space to live courageously and with meaning. Those who do gain experiences and tools to do so as adults with families and careers. They know what it means to try and fail, doing so with the protection and support of the loving adults in their lives.

That’s where you come in. When the teenager you love comes to you with a wild and crazy idea – help them figure it out. Support them. Ask good questions. Help them take it a step further.

What would things look like if we lived with a little more courage? What would it look like for the teenagers in your life to be more courageous?

I think we can all agree on that answer.

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s Program Director, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
The Power of Your Words

The Power of Your Words

How to harness the power of your words when speaking of teens.

Have you ever had that one person that you just really don’t like? There isn’t always good reason, but when their name is brought up, you inwardly roll your eyes and try your best to hide those negative impulses? That’s not just me…right?

Recently, I realized that I had developed an incredibly strong opinion about a person without even knowing them personally – let’s call him Max. Through other people’s opinions, I began to see Max as selfish, moody and disrespectful. What’s even worse is that I didn’t realize my bias until someone else’s opinion began to change my mind!

Once again, without any personal interaction, I created an opinion in my head based on how someone talked about Max. However, this new influencer had the opposite effect. Where I used to roll my eyes when his name was brought up, suddenly, I found myself defending his decisions and giving him the benefit of the doubt when he made mistakes. After spending time with one of Max’s best friends, I stopped treating Max like he had personally wronged me (which he hadn’t), I began to see him as a likable, funny person who needed a little grace, just like the rest of us.

All because of one opinion.

You might be asking – what did they say? How can a few words change your opinion so quickly? And that’s just it – it really didn’t take much. His friend didn’t bribe me or make up stories about his heroic efforts on the weekends, they simply spoke kindly about Max. In every word, every description and even through their tone, I could tell that they genuinely believed the best about Max. There was a reason that they were friends, and it made me want to be his friend, too!

Michael Hyatt just wrote a blog about the importance of affirming your spouse, and after my experience with Max, I am a firm believer in the power of your words and their ability to shape someone’s opinion.

If it is important to lift up, encourage and affirm your spouse, it should be just as important to do the same for your kids (especially your teenagers)!

Here are a few reasons why it is crucial to speak positively about teens:

Your words will shape the opinions of others.

As parents, teachers, youth ministers, coaches and mentors, we need to check what words and stories are coming out of our mouths. Especially when you are talking to people who do not personally know that teenager, there is no excuse for gossiping and spreading negative opinions about a student. When all you do is vent to friends or other parents, you are only giving them a glimpse into the most negative aspects of that teen.

How are they supposed to overcome that difficult teacher or the task of making good friends when everyone already has negative, preconceived notions about who they are and their priorities. Give them a chance to make friends or enemies based on their own interactions, instead of the thoughtless words of an angry, frustrated adult. Choose to say kind and positive things more often than telling negative stories.

Give your friends, their teachers, and other adults a reason to like your teenager.

Your words will shape your opinion.

When you say positive things about that teenager, you will start to notice more positive things to say. Instead of jumping to the worst possible conclusion, tell others how much they are trying. Tell that story about how sweet they were when their little sister was crying (you don’t have to mention that they caused the crying in the first place). Focus on the things they are great at – whether that is school, band, being a good teammate, or helping around the house.

If you get in the habit of bragging on your kids, students and players, you might find that you have more reasons to brag on them than you originally thought. Just like your words can change the opinions of others, they can also influence your own patience and treatment of teens.

Give yourself a reason to like that teenager.

Your words will shape their opinion.

I will never forget the times that my parents bragged about me to their friends, or the time I overheard my youth minster telling someone he wanted his daughter to grow up and be like me. I can remember thinking, “If they think that of me, I need to keep going and prove them right!”

You know that warm, fuzzy feeling when you know someone is proud of you? Can you imagine what teenagers would act like if they got that feeling often – weekly, even daily?

Tell that teenager that you are proud of them. Write it in a note. Say it out loud. Tell everyone you know how great they are. Use your words to empower and encourage your teenager to act, think and live better.

Give teenagers a reason to like themselves.


Take this next week and consciously look for positive things to say about the teenagers in your life. If a negative thought or word comes up, immediately think of two positive things to replace it with.

Let us know how this experiment goes and if it changed the way you or others fell about teens. Help combat the negativity that is too often involved with these teenage years.

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

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Motivation Monday: Searching for Hope

Motivation Monday: Searching for Hope

We are only 7 weeks away from our 7th annual TL5K!

As we continue to share stories from our Teen Lifeline Support Groups, we hope that you are seeing the benefits that these groups bring to the students, school districts, campus counselors and the facilitators that lead these groups.

We are so passionate about our #TL5K is because the funds raised by this one event help make these groups possible! We have the opportunity to continue to grow and reach teenagers with 100 volunteer facilitators trained to use our Life Lived Better Curriculum to lead support groups in their local school or church.

One of my favorite things about working for Teen Lifeline is sharing group stories with these other facilitators, and this has been especially fun since my mother-in-law, Julee Duke, started leading groups this semester! I may be a little biased, but she is providing support and encouragement to students who need a listening ear and a chance to be heard and accepted. Her job, and the goal of all of our facilitators, is to equip, encourage and empower the students in their groups to live life better – to choose to live a better and different story.



My name is Julee Duke, and I am leading my first Teen Lifeline group at a Middle School in Fort Worth ISD. I have nine 8th grade girls in my group, and although we are only halfway through the 8-week Support Group Curriculum, I have learned so much about these girls and their need for hope in their lives.


The first week proved to be challenging with one girl not making eye contact with me or speaking a word, but slowly scooting her chair closer and closer until she was right beside me by the end of our time together. Since that first day, she is the first one in the room and the last one out, in hopes of having a one-on-one moment with me outside of the group. She is now looking at me, smiling and sharing difficult memories and joyous victories – HOPE!


With this particular girl and the rest of the group, as the weeks have passed, hearts have softened. The girls are now fully engaged and look forward to our time together. It isn’t me or the snacks that I provide at the end that makes them want to come back – it’s that their deep desire to be heard and acknowledged is being met, some for the first time in their young lives.


There have been tears shed, confessions made, and difficult stories shared. I am extremely thankful for this opportunity and am blessed to be a small part of encouraging young people that there is hope for a better life.


In case you missed our last blog on hope, check out Chris Robey’s ideas on Helping Students Find Hope in Hopelessness.


Julee Duke is a mom of 4 great kids, volunteers with the youth at Fielder Church, and has been leading a Teen Lifeline group in Fort Worth ISD since January 2016.