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Support your teen with goal-setting

[Disclaimer: I didn’t write this because I have somehow perfected the art of raising a teen. I’m writing this because the teen-me watched in horror as the adult-me parented my teens exactly how the teen-me knew I shouldn’t. The teen-me was positively screaming in my ear, but did I listen? Well, I did my best!]

My new book is about goal-setting for teens, and I wrote it directly for teens, not parents. The reason for that is that from what I’ve seen, teens pretty much won’t do anything well unless they feel invested in it.

But teens also need the adults in their lives. Though there are those rare teens who seem to be able to handle everything on their own, most teens need—and actually want—guidance. It’s just that the sort of guidance parents tend to offer is, shall we say, not exactly what they’re looking for.

So how do we support our teens?

Give them agency

In traditional cultures, teens were young adults. They got to take up a spear or build a fire. But our culture is significantly more complex. As much as we might wish that our teens will do well in life with a fine spear and good aim, they need education, a driver’s license, and lots of experience sorting real from fake Nigerian princes.

So they do still need our guidance, and few are ready to be modern “adults” at 14. But they also need to feel growing independence as they go into their teen years. They need to feel trusted with real jobs (even though they might complain about them). Lots of destructive teen behavior comes from their need to make a mark in some way.

Follow their lead

We all knew when our babies were learning to walk that we needed to let them fall. It’s so much harder to let our teens fail when their failure might make a permanent change in their life path.

College professors are reporting that more and more, young students are coming to them and asking how they can make sure they get an A, as if success is more important than learning. This attitude leads to kids who have an instinct always to play it safe and to guard what they have. Perhaps this might make for success in getting into college, but it’s not a good recipe for success in life.

Help them find a direction (for now)

If we’re going to let our kids lead, we have to feel like they are going somewhere. And lots of teens really don’t know where they are going. Goal-setting is a way to help them have a direction, even if it’s just for the next week. And having a direction is important, even if, halfway up the path, we decide to go a different way.

Enter goal-setting

That’s why I fixed on goal-setting as a way to communicate with my kids. I figured if I could get them to articulate goals, even the most minor ones, we’d share a common language for moving forward. I didn’t find a book I liked, so in the spirit of being a lifelong learner, I wrote one myself!

I also use the book (in its previous nascent form and now as a published book) in goal-setting classes I teach online at Athena’s Advanced Academy. It’s fun to work with teens who aren’t my own and find out that just like mine, they thrive when they feel that they have agency, choices, and a direction.

Posted in Books, Education, Homeschooling, Writing.

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