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Positive approach to parenting teens

Speaker helps parents guide good decisions

April 11, 2012

Jeff Wenzler said it will be special experience to come back to the community where he was born and later worked as a youth counselor. He's coming Monday to spread the word about the importance of parents helping their teens and "tweens" make important, right decisions.

Wenzler, the founder and president of Pivotal Directions, a nonprofit, nonreligious organization devoted to building leadership, service and character among youth, will talk to parents about how to "choose your battles" to keep children on the right path for success.

The program is sponsored by the school district's Parents United group, but is open to all interested adults.

Inspiring parents

"There is a lot of territory to cover," Wenzler said. "Hopefully it will break the ice for parents who are looking for help or want to make sure their kids don't go wrong. Parents, coaches or any adult who has an influence on kids in these age groups can get something out of learning how to help them make the right decisions."

Wenzler draws his inspiration to help parents from personal experience.

When he was 20, his older brother died from the effects of drug abuse. After studying criminology and law as an undergraduate and earning a master's degree in education, Wenzler has carved out a varied vocational path including working in prisons and as a representative for a global pharmaceutical company. In both experiences, he said, he witnessed firsthand the consequences of bad choices and the growth of drugs like those used to battle socially transmitted diseases in young populations.

Though his message is not spiritual, Wenzler years ago counseled youth at local parishes Christ King, St. Bernard and St. Pius.

"You can't blame kids who live sheltered lives or those in a suburban bubble or living in the central city," Wenzler said. "Kids only know what they know. They want to push their limits, but it's up to adults to provide positive ways to do that. It's how we push our limits that can make all the difference in the world."

Resonating message

That message resonated with Tosa United, said the organization's liaison, Rebecca Huenink.

"One of the parents in our group had heard Jeff talk and recommended him," Huenink said. "When I spoke to him, it was obvious he had a very good message.

"The last thing a parent wants to hear is how to stop their teen from doing certain things, because that's what they always hear," she said. "The message Jeff presents comes at the situation from a different perspective. He gives parents ideas on how to help their kids to substitute the bad behaviors with more positive things."

On its website, Pivotal Directions describes its service as providing "an adventure course in personal and team leadership in international and domestic impoverished areas, as well as local leadership training that focuses on personal growth and the importance of servant leadership."

On Tap

WHAT: "Choose Your Battles" for parents of teens and tweens

WHEN:7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday

WHERE:Wauwatosa Public Library, 7635 W. North Ave.

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