Paul Channon, Headmaster of The Ridge School and Chairman of SAHISA
A Cherokee elder was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me...it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too." They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" The old Cherokee simply replied... "The one you feed."
Good Evening Everyone
Thank you all for being here. Helen and I are honoured and humbled that you have taken the time to celebrate with us as we launch our book, The Adolescent Storm.
If you want to reconnect with past colleagues, friends and family – the advice is obvious – write a book and then prevail upon their good nature to attend the launch!
Writing and publishing The Adolescent Storm would not have been possible without the help and support of many people and while we thank everyone present, particular thanks must go to Penguin. First to the CEO, Alison Lowry, for agreeing to publish our book in the first place and of course to her former publisher, Louise Grantham who encouraged our journey most warmly. The Penguin staff has been most helpful. To Ellen, our publicist, who organized tonight as well as other publicity and who sent out invitations to the unsuspecting, to Catherine Murray our inordinately kind editor, Nicola Rijsdik the efficient proof reader; Renee Naude who designed the cover, changed the title and put up with our idiosyncrasies with very good grace -thank you all so very much.
To our ever-patient husbands Ken and Rob who supported us in this long process - we admit we owe you. In fact Ken rescued the book from the nether regions of cyber space on more than one occasion and he put up with a few anti-technology-tantrums that may have made an adolescent-rant seem feeble by comparison.
We are also grateful to Paul’s secretary, Liz Wallis, who is consistently professional and accommodating. Thanks for handling the additional burden created by us, Liz.
We are also grateful to Julie Green, a well known and outstanding clinical psychologist who commented on the book and to whom we are indebted for checking the veracity of our theory. Jenny Ketley supported us a great deal and manages the seminars for us – thank you for all you do for us, Jenny.
Paul’s generosity is far reaching he also agreed to read the draft version of The Adolescent Storm, before it even had a real title, and he gave both a meaningful endorsement and also some excellent advice. Thank you. Besides Julie Green and Paul, a number of other people were also coerced into reading the book in its draft form. We owe our gratitude to:
All of these people are extremely busy making significant contributions in their various fields of concern and yet they made the time and had the graciousness to read and endorse our book – we are humbled by their support.
Unfortunately the renowned futurist, strategist and author, Dr Graeme Codrington, who wrote the Foreword and who gave us invaluable advice is not here tonight. In his absence I would like to thank him for his significant contribution to our book.
And then of course to all the parents and adolescents with whom we have had and do have the privilege to work – thank you for all you have taught us and for the enrichment you have brought to our lives. What a privilege to be associated with every one of you. One parenting couple I would particularly like to mention is Bruce and Hilary Watt who gave me permission to write, unfettered, about their very precious and beautiful daughter so that others may take solace from their journey. Thank you for your generosity that knows no bounds and I know you have helped many people in their sadness. You have allowed Kim to continue to be the angel that she is now and was then.
Let me move on to telling you a little about the book. Why this book?
Aside from technological and medical advances many of the issues around adolescence in the 21st century are probably as old as the proverbial hills - Aristotle said, the youth are “heated by nature as drunken men by wine,” while Socrates, characterized adolescence as a time when the youth is inclined “to contradict their parents and tyrannize their teachers.” Just when we thought we were clever in choosing weather as our central image to link the book together we realized that the philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau had made the connection long before us: “The roaring of the waves [which]precede the tempest so the murmur of rising passions announce[s] the tumultuous change. “Keep your hand upon the helm”, he advised parents “or all is lost.” And the Times headline of a week ago read, “Teens in a bad way- Parents at fault” not a far cry from that of previous centuries.
In The Adolescent Storm, like Rousseau, we exhort parents to keep a hand on the helm and to reflect on the act of parenting. The book also postulates the Winnicottian theory that “good enough” parenting may be more effective than parenting that is “too good.” Whatever view one holds, there can be no denying that what one does as a parent does matter; how an adolescent is treated and valued as a thinking person matters and the same holds true for schools. How we parent, we would argue, is fundamental to the advancement of the next generation. While the book is accessible and simple the implications of good parenting are far-reaching – good parenting builds the next generation while poor parenting has the potential to destroy.
With the recent discovery of Australopithecus Sediba, theories of evolution are certainly at the forefront of many minds. Before you think I am going to suggest adolescent behaviour sheds some light on Neanderthal man or Australopithecines, I want to postulate that the evolution of thinking is in fact a parenting issue. If we can be reflective parents, thinking about our actions, we will be better parents than the generation before and if we can model good parenting, and if schools and parents and carers create platforms for better thinking then human kind’s thinking evolves and societies will have greater potential to flourish – for as adults that is our task – to help young people to flourish; to make the world better than it was before. It is in that flourishing that the human race will truly evolve into being more human and more humane. The task is a daunting one. The consideration in this country of the number of homes where there are no parents at all is alarming – we would then all do well to protect and guide, mentor and love and help all the young people who come along our paths be they our own children, the children of our peers or the children we teach– it is an adult task to help them on their journey, not only so that they may thrive but also so that the very structure of that which makes us human can survive. As adults our task is not altruistic; our task is in fact an imperative. The storm of adolescence is but one storm we have to navigate and we are compelled to keep our hand upon the helm or else “all is lost.”