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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

At one point, you were the youngest person on Earth. That’s kind of wild, isn’t it?

So it’s funny when we realize how much we sound like our parents – or our grandparents – if we utter something like, “Well, these kids these days . . .”

Although it almost seems natural to automatically assume that all kids share the same tendencies and traits, there are two problems with that.

One, projecting our biases onto all kids is about as close-minded as assigning blanket judgments onto all women, or all men, or all people of a particular race. It’s a form of prejudice.

Two, by voicing that bias we essentially program young people to believe that they are limited in their abilities to contribute anything of significance. We’re inhibiting them, really, by placing restraints on their simmering potential.

Why would we want to program any young go-getter into thinking that they need to wait to explore their talent?

Take Brittany Wenger, a 17-year-old from Lakewood Ranch, Florida. Working with biology and computer science, she developed an application that actually mimics the human brain, and is 99 percent accurate in diagnosing malignant breast cancer tumors. Think of the number of lives that this app could potentially save.

On the other side of the country in San Diego, Jonah Kohn experimented with sound vibrations using his guitar (and his teeth, believe it or not). The result? A device that allows the 30 million Americans with hearing loss to finally experience music, turning their own bodies into resonating speakers and allowing them to enjoy everything from Bach to Bieber.

Well, at least Bach.

Jonah took a dose of inspiration, mixed it with some personal drive and imagination, and positively changed the lives of tens of millions of people.

Oh, and Jonah is 14 years old. Yeah, these kids these days . . .

We’re a bad-news-oriented society, when you think of it. A kid somewhere does something either dumb or illegal – or often both – and we ascribe that behavior to all kids. Another student somewhere causes trouble at school and we instantly indict every student, triggered by some instinctual guilt-by-association mindset.

We were kids, and we had our bad moments, but we also had some great moments. Yet we go from being the youngest person on Earth – full of energy and potential – to a cynical grump. Sadly, we’re often suspicious of anything new, and I suppose that filters down to even our children. They’re new, so we distrust their abilities.

But while some kids might unfortunately give others a bad name, there are millions of others who hold a vast, untapped resource of creativity and ingenuity which could impact our lives – all of our lives – if we shifted our attitude just a touch.

Maybe rather than changing the words, we can simply alter the emotion attached to them. So instead of drenching the line with sarcasm and disgust, These kids these days can take on a positive, joyous air, knowing that their contributions could be glorious if we only encouraged them.

Dom Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty-three years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit student development foundation. His new book, Smart is Cool, will be published in August, 2014. More info at www.DomTesta.com.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who take joy in the wonderful potential of children.