“Be helpful, not a handful.” I am not sure who owns that quote, but I picked it up and have said it to my girls over and over throughout the years when they were off to visit a friend’s house. I am sure it was incredibly annoying. But as any parent knows, I can hardly wait until they say it to their children. Afterall, I would like to hope that my girls heeded the wisdom and were helpful and not a handful when they were at their friends’ homes. As parents we all have goals for our children, but in their teenage years, they need to develop their own goals and be accountable for their success and learn from their failures (or hurdles as I prefer to call them). How do we help our teens transition from where parents are setting the goals, the expectations, and outlining the methodology to letting our teenager do that?
Afterall, to be successful in their adult life, our teenagers need to learn personal responsibility, self discipline, and accountability for their choices and to work toward the future that they want to achieve. It is often hard for parents to let go of the “final” say in their teenager’s life. I want to share a few strategies to begin that transition where your teenager begins to have their own mantra of being helpful, not a handful.
A great place to start is helping your teenager to discover, “Who am I? Who am I outside of the house of my parents?” What is important to your teenager, what do they value? Your teen has a number of dreams about the future they see for themself. It may not align with what we would like them to achieve as a parent and that is where we as parents need to step back and listen and encourage our teenager.
One of the first things to discuss are values. Value is a term that has so many different meanings, and to examine your values, your family values and your teens values, a clear definition of what a value is must be defined. The definition I have adopted: Values drive behaviour. They are your beliefs regarding specific issues. Values are internal, emotional, arguable, specific to you, and can change as you gain knowledge. They are shaped by our perspective, life events, and create strong emotion when someone has a different value than our own. For parents, that can be personal if your teenager does not have the exact same values as you, but we are each unique and have our own talents and interpretation of the world and the environment we interact in. So as a parent embrace the different values, discuss them, understand the values that your teenager is embracing, as these values will help your teenager find the success that they want in their future. As a parent we want to help our children grow up to be successful adults who shape their own future and have the self-discipline, responsibility and drive to do just that. The ripple our children make in this world will change it.
After values, it is important to define a personal mission statement. A call to action; the way in which your teen will conduct their life. It helps to establish boundaries and make sure that your teenager will work toward the success that they want. How do you write a personal mission statement? That is one of the key things my company, Encouraging Teens, helps teens to do. There are many websites and youtube videos that can help you to do this, but a personal touch and having someone take a vague statement and morph it to a crystalized viewpoint to remember is the way in which you will live your personal mission statement. If the personal mission statement is broad then it is too difficult to live by, to create goals from, and is quickly lost and forgotten. It is important that the personal mission statements are a reflection of values your teen will want to rise to and challenges to defeat. A key lesson to learn as a parent is that a teen’s personal mission statement will evolve, change, and grow as they grow, it is not as rigid as that of an adult writing a personal mission statement. That is a difference that as a parent we must understand and encourage. A yearly evaluation of their personal mission statement as they grow and change really is important.
Having established a personal mission statement, the next step is to create goals. Not just any vague goal, such as, “I will buy a new car.” That is a goal, but is it a SMART goal? No the goal is not SMART, and due to how loose it is, the chances of success are not very high. To purchase a car a lot of information has to be collected and shaped into a SMART goal to make sure that you are able to purchase the new car in the confines of the goal. Goals create accountability, responsibility, and push you towards taking the actions needed to achieve the goal. Since goals build on each other the success of one goal sets up the success of the next goal and working toward the future your teenager has designed for themselves. It is the nature of SMART goals to be concise and specifically structured so that the objectives to achieving the goal are easily thought of and achieved.
As a parent, by taking the journey of discussing values, creating personal mission statements, and writing goals with your teenager, you are helping your teenager to discover who they are and what their future holds. This transition of being a parent who controls the goals and the objectives to the parent that encourages your own teen’s self-discovery and growth helps them to grow into the adult who makes a difference in their own world. It is hard for a parent to let go and watch their teen stumble as they discover who they are, but the hurdles that they encounter as they discover who they are is part of the maturity process. As a parent we get to provide the much needed support and guidance through this season of their life.