Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely (Henry Ford)
Failure is a word I really do not like to hear. It has the negative vibe that you cannot or did not succeed at what you were doing. Yes, I know parents and teachers, we all say my teen failed their Chemistry test or whatever subject you want to put in place of Chemistry, but what if we changed the discussion from “failure” to “hurdles”? The conversation can become, my teen has really hit a hurdle in Chemistry, and we spent a few hours discussing ways around the hurdle. It created the opportunity for us to have a discussion on how to find help and what resources my teen can use to reach their academic goal in Chemistry. I feel this builds communication and builds the relationship. By having a discussion on the reasoning behind the test grade you built trust. The conversation that encourages dialogue and critical thinking skills builds up your teen’s skills for problem solving and opens the door to having a discussion about being proactive in their academic goals.
It is easy to use the word failure and blame the teenager personally by calling them irresponsible. I find there are some very specific fears teens have that cause them to create the hurdle, and I feel that it would be beneficial if I discussed these hurdles and how to overcome them.
One double hurdle teens often face is the fear of failure combined with the emotion of despair caused by disappointing you, their parents. Stumbling at this hurdle looks like this. Instead of seeking help as they begin to struggle in a class, teens will continue to do poorly as the fear of disappointing their parents outweighs the fear of failure. What if we could change that around. It starts by having open communication about goals and what to do if the goal starts to be overwhelming. I encourage parents to talk openly about getting help when their teen starts to struggle academically. If the teen feels that they can talk to you, it minimizes that emotion of fear and instead you,as the parent, are their partner for creating success.
Another hurdle that creates an obstacle for success is being a victim or playing the victim. Teens will say, “I would have an A in Algebra 2 if Mr. Smith could teach the class. It is Mr. Smith’s fault I am not doing well.” I challenge the “being a victim” every opportunity and teach teens that they need to take responsibility for their actions and be accountable for their behavior. If they are doing poorly in the class, what can the teen do to change that? I challenge the teen to come up with solutions and offer other solutions for the teen to consider. It is important to teach responsibility and accountability to our teens. It is equally important to help them develop critical thinking skills when they encounter a hurdle and to help them find solutions that they are willing to take action on to change the situation and the outcome.
A third hurdle is conflict. Teens do not like conflict, and if overcoming a hurdle includes conflict they will often avoid it. Often what needs to happen is for the teen to learn some communication skills so that they can have a conversation that does not spiral out of control and stops focusing on the behavior or the specifics of the conflict. Teenagers, despite perhaps having very tough exteriors, really just want to belong, to be accepted and be loved. Afterall, that is all anyone wants. Conflict and being involved in conflict even if it will help them to overcome a hurdle and move them toward achieving their goal, teenagers struggle with that. It takes building self-confidence, encouraging the teen and teaching them the communication skills to have those difficult conversations.
One last hurdle teens face is resources. Often teenagers lack resources or how to find resources. I will offer a number of resources for a teenager to help them overcome a hurdle they are facing. It is only by encouraging teens to look and ask for help that they will become an individual who will seek resources to help create the success they want. It is important that a teen, when asking someone for help, receives positive reinforcement for doing so. Teens are reluctant to ask for help because it is them admitting that they are struggling.
Our job as parents, coaches, mentors is to be role models and provide encouragement and teachable moments to help our teens grow into young adults. Being a parent is the long game. It is not simply raising a teenager. It is raising the next generation, the next doctor, manufacturing mogul, or fashion icon. All of us play a role in helping to build teenager’s self-confidence, self worth, and resilience. We need to be aware that they are watching our actions and will take their cues from the behavior we exhibit.