Personal Leadership is essential to your teen’s academic success, not to mention their emotional development. In this article, we’ll address the elments of autonomy, problem-solving, and accountability. Parents often struggle with this major life transition, because it is a delicate balance of letting go while supporting your teen’s learning and growth.
How Nurture Personal Leadership
1. Help Your Teen Name the Problem
Teenagers have a hard time identifying what they need help with. Typically, that’s because their stress and fear has led to overwhelm, making it difficult to think clearly.
For instance, I worked with a high school freshman, we’ll call her Maddie. She has an IEP for a math learning disability. She also has a really hard time knowing what to do when she hits an obstacle. If she doesn’t know what her homework is, her typical response is to say “well, I can’t do it.”
So we asked her questions to both clarify, and break down, her issue into smaller, more manageable pieces. We also gently guided her to growth-mindset language by adding “yet” to phrases like “I can’t” or “I’ll never.”
2. Ask Your Teen for Solutions
As you saw, Maddie had shut down. It’s understandable, given that she hadn’t learned tools and strategies that work. Her confidence was very low.
So that’s where we started to build her ownership mindset.
We walk teens through their problem once or twice, encouraging them to find solutions. When they get stuck, we encourage them to keep going. “Yes, step 1 is great, but we still need to find 2, 3, 4 and 5 resources so you have a toolkit. Let’s keep digging.”
And, that’s exactly what unlocked personal leadership skills with Maddie. As I asked her power questions, she started to realize she had many answers. She’d say, “Well, my teacher posts the homework online.” Or, she’d think of a friend in class that she could text. We created a physical list of all her resources so that the next time she doesn’t know the assignment, she has a ready-to-go solution.
She felt empowered. She felt fully capable of solving that problem on her own in the future.
Your Role as a Parent
Teens need to believe they can find the answers. And, they need the freedom to figure it out on their own. That said, as they’re learning, you can teach and help them. For instance, you can help them write an email to a teacher or role-play a conversation. Just remember to position your teen as the leader. And, as hard as it may be, increasingly step back.
When your teen doesn’t want you to be their helper, you can suggest they talk to somebody they know and respect — like an aunt, a family friend, or an older sister.
And, if you need a neutral third-party, or professional support for your teen, please reach out for a free, no pressure strategy call to figure out your best next steps.
Life Success for Teens offers one-to-one coaching, and a group coaching program in the fall called, The High School Success Formula.
Cheers to your teen’s ever-increasing resourcefulness and personal leadership!