Sex, drugs, rock and roll – these have always been considered the big evils for teens around the world, throughout time. But what if they’re not? What if there is some other underlying principle in the subconscious that ‘tells us’ something is a good idea or not?
In fact, the idea isn’t all that crazy – there are many books, articles, PhDs being written about the importance and mysteries of human psychology. You can never blame drugs for a problem that was caused by a person’s psychology or thinking pattern at a particular point in time.
Much of my work has always been around prevention rather than cure, and I believe our psychology starts from how we’re raised – at home, through school, by parents, relatives, teachers...
A parent’s biggest fear (or among the biggest) is the risk of their teen ‘slipping up’, getting in with the wrong crowd, or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. The thing is, your parenting isn’t the only thing that will be influencing their decisions, but rather their sense of responsibility, and, in many cases, self-leadership.
Self-leadership. Isn’t that a cool word? It’s kind of like self-discipline, but nicer. So why self- leadership for teens?
When a teen is at that crucial moment where he or she can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and the little voice inside their head is going “maybe this isn’t such a good idea”, an aspect of self- leadership can help them make the best decision.
Alicia is 15, and is dating 19 year old Terry. The night of their third date, Terry asks her to stay over at his house. As soon as they get inside, things start getting sexy, but Alicia isn’t so sure about this...
“You do want to do it, don’t you?” asks Terry, a bit agitated, sensing that she’s not so into it...
If Alicia was your daughter, what’s the advice you would give her in this situation?
The problem is that we can speculate over millions of similar examples, but the fact remains: you, nor I will be in that room that night will Alicia and Terry to dish out advice, so what can you as a parent do before your teen gets into a situation they may not know how to get out of?
This is where self-leadership comes in, and you can help them work on theirs right now, so that if or when they end up in an unwanted situation, they will be able to at least have some control over how they feel and how they should act, so that the situation doesn’t turn out badly.
Here are some exercises I’ve found work really well between parents and teens, that help your teen develop self-leadership
Go over scenarios
Sit down with your teen, and come up with 3 or 5 scenarios that stereotypically happen to teens. Get your inspiration from movies, books, or perhaps even past experiences or stories. The idea of this exercise is not to scare your teen away, or make it ‘boring’ – it’s for you both to discuss various situations that may come up in life, and how your teen would be dealing with it. If their suggested course of action is not one you would agree with, let them know...that way, you’ll keep the conversation going, until you’re both on the same page.
Go over past experiences
Similar to the point above, go over past experiences that your teen may have ended up in, and discuss what they could have done differently, and what the outcomes could have been. Usually with past experiences – such as driving drunk, crashing a car, running away from home, sneaking out of the house, trying drugs are all situations that get dealt with at that time, and it’s very rare for families to go back to these situations, and discuss the alternatives of what could have happened if someone did something differently. It’s important to go over alternatives, and hopefully this will also help your teen to not repeat history in the future.
One of my previous articles was all about saying ‘No’. I don’t know about your teen, but the power that comes with the ability to say no is...kind of amazing. Or at least it was for me. It’s no secret that during my teen years, coming up to when I started straightening out my life and writing my book, I had done enough experimenting that would send the 60’s kids into panic attacks. I was the master of saying yes, and trying to have a good time. Being in groups that knew I was always up for the latest temporary high (not always literal), the day I really felt like I was in control was the day I started to say ‘No’. Saying no to my ‘friends’, saying no to the things that weren’t adding to my life. I was already so far in that it was the hardest thing to start rejecting everything and everyone I knew, so considering your teen will hopefully never reach that state, everything that comes with saying ‘no’ to something you don’t want to do, or a situation you don’t want to get into can be one of the best decisions you make as a teen. In a way, it almost makes you feel like you’re bulletproof; like you are in charge of your life. And you know what, as teens, we are in charge of our lives. We just need to be told how to do this.
How do you instil self-leadership into your teens’ life?
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