By Gavin Fish, Headmaster of Fish Hoek High School

I caused some teenage pain and anguish this week. What’s more, I did it to some really special teens, whom I would not choose to hurt, at the worst of times.

I have no regrets!


Stay with me on this one.

I was speaking with them about a situation of their own creation. Not their finest moment, by any means. I told them what they didn’t want to hear. I told them that the only way round a problem, is through it. That avoidance would bring a sigh of relief today, but no solution for tomorrow.

Teens are masters at this art, but to be honest, we adults are the same. The difficulty we are in is usually painful enough. To compound the agony by suggesting you have to deal with it yourself, is awful. Can’t we just make it go away quietly? No one chooses to revisit their guilt, least of all “publically.” Making right invariably involves others, worrying about how they will respond and what people will say. On this occasion the risk, because disclosure always involves risk, paid off. Their worst fears were allayed. People respected the courage of their honesty. Their integrity is intact in a situation that could have had the opposite effect.

Oh sure, they are dealing with the consequence of their actions, but with head held high. Consequences are only ever effective with teens when they “own” them. In other words, “I deserved this; I’m dealing with it, enough talking about it.” Consequences that come with a truck load of anger, or are excessive, out of relation to the offence, achieve the exact opposite. They build resentment and drive the undesired behaviour underground; lose-lose.  

Would that more of my teen interactions ended with such a pure win-win scenario!  I’ve often told teens that when I confront you and you are dishonest with me, I remember, in the corridor, both your offence and your dishonesty. When you are bold enough to “fess” up to what you’ve done, I forget the offence and remember your courage.

Now that’s a no-brainer. Turning a failure on its head and instantly turning it into a success. How often do you get an opportunity like that?

Isn’t that what a true opportunist does, turns failure into success?