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How to raise a tough teen

By Glen Gerreyn

Our world is becoming ever more complex socially, environmentally and politically. It is a world where many flounder, making it increasingly difficult for them to develop meaning or mastery. Blinded by societal pressure and fears, many young people find themselves future-blind and disengaged. Rapid changes in technology, and increased addiction to social media have seen people becoming stuck in a permanent and ceaseless present.

For these reasons it is vital our children develop specific skills to enable them to be successful in this new epoch – skills such as adaptability, social and cultural interaction, productivity, self-management and problem-solving. 

Three additional character traits your child will need to acquire in order to lead and to create positive impact in the world around them are examined below. 

1. Be proactive, not reactive 

Being proactive is about taking responsibility for yourself. We cannot keep blaming everything that goes wrong on our parents, our grandparents, our teachers, our genetics or our circumstances. Real change occurs when we resolve to make the necessary changes to bring about a transformation in our life. Our motto needs to be – If it’s going to be, it’s up to me! If our children are struggling in a particular subject, finding it hard to make friends or complaining that their teacher doesn’t like them, don’t let them throw their arms up in the air and say, “I quit!”. Who told them that they had to accept failure?

If life isn’t going to plan, help them devise a strategy. Take them through the steps on how to organise a tutor or ask the teacher for more help. In order to have friends, one must be a friend. Brainstorm how they can show hospitality to those around them or how a small act of kindness towards a teacher may help them realise they really want to learn and hence build a more positive connection. 

Most problems have a creative solution and, if they don’t, work together to determine how to enable them to alleviate the discomfort and carry on. 

A proactive person uses language like – I can. I will. I must. A reactive person use language like – I can’t. Do I have to? or, If only. Teaching our children how to respond wisely to life’s challenges rather than reacting blindly is a formidable trait. In our family, our first response in any situation is – we don’t fuss, we don’t react, we don’t worry. We put together a plan and we execute it. 

2. Develop hardiness 

I don’t want them to fall apart at the smallest things. I once caught my four-year-old daughter telling my seven-year-old daughter to “Toughen up, princess!” That was a proud parenting moment. 

I want my four kids to be tough! Yes, they also need to be vulnerable and open, but that is also about toughness, as it takes courage to be vulnerable. 

Our family motto, (thank you, Brene Brown) is “WE DO HARD THINGS”. It’s plastered in large black letters across the top of our kitchen window. It’s there to remind our children (and their parents) that, on occasion, they will be called upon to do hard things. They will be called upon to step up and be brave. Giving them the knowledge that they can do hard things – and I truly believe they want to do them – gives them the permission they seek to go for it … and fail … and go for it … and fail … until they get there. 

A study found that entrepreneurs are three times more likely than the general public to have dyslexia and people with ADHD are also three times more likely to start their own company. Disadvantaged people, with a mindset and a heart set towards hardiness, can make setbacks work in their favour. We don’t have to allow a closed door to remain closed. If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door or pick the lock. Learn how to survive and, if necessary, teach young people how to live by their wits, find a new angle and be creative. 

3. Have a bias towards action 

Fortune favours the brave because the brave take action! We must help our children accept that in real life nobody is going to turn around their big red chair and say, I want you on my team. If they really want to progress, they can’t wait to be ordained, approved of or picked out of a crowd of hopefuls and given a crown. Sometimes, uninvited, you need to make the choice yourself and take the action necessary to step closer to your goals. True leadership comes from within – following your heart.

The truth is YouTube wants your child to have their own show, but they are not going to call; iTunes wants your child to write their own song, but they are not going to call either; Amazon wants your child to write their own book, but they are not going to text you. The platforms are available, the opportunity is at our fingertips, the audience is standing by, but the all-important ingredient, action, is elusive. 

There are 13-year-old girls making $8000 a month selling slime on Instagram and the highest earning YouTuber last year was a 7-year-old boy who made $22,000,000 unboxing toys. Neither of these young people is smarter or more talented or possesses more opportunity than your child. What they both have is a bias towards action. They are willing to give things a go, fail, fall, get their heart broken and then try again. 

Soft skills are really not all that soft. They can be harnessed to help lift your child – and yourself – to a level beyond their current capacity. 

Want More

The Positive Parenting Talk delivered by Glen Gerreyn is a seminar being offered by The HopeFull Institute.  Contact us for more details. 

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