As a teenager it is easy to do things that can negatively or positively affect the rest of your time. Thus, as a parent, your goal should be to help your child consciously make decisions that will result in positive outcomes for the rest of their life. This is easier said than done, as distractions like friends, significant others, fashion, popularity, etc. are numerous. However, the following are a few tips for getting your teen on the right path:
1. Help them set goals: The best way to help them connect the dots between their actions today and the impact of those actions in the future is to help them set their goals, and then discuss how to get there. For example, if your child wants to be a doctor, they need to get into college, which means they need good grades. They also need a strong work ethic, and to develop good study habits, this comes from practice. They will be going to school for a long time, so they need to get used to living frugally, and saving money. All of these things take forethought. Your kid can’t just wake up one day and get to be a doctor, they have to get high enough grades, good test scores, and acceptances from the right schools and programs. So, while it may seem obvious to you, spell it out for them. Help them understand that when they blow off studying for a test in order to go out with friends, they aren’t just getting a poor mark one day of their life, they may be jeopardizing what they want for their future. This helps them be more accountable for their actions, and more aware of what those actions mean.
2. Don’t inset your hopes, let them determine their own. One of the biggest problems with getting a teen on the right path is when you think you know what that path is, and they don’t. If you try to force a teen to be someone they don’t want to be, or do something they don’t want to do, they may comply for a time, but eventually they will rebel. This means wasted time, effort, money, etc. So, don’t set their goals for them, or tell them how much you want them to go to this school, or major in this or that. Let them determine what outcome they want, and then you can help them figure out the best way to achieve it. Living vicariously through your teen is only going to cause problems.
3. Talk to them about distractions and things that get them off the path. It is good for your teen to experience teenage life, and all of the ups and downs that go with it, but just because they are a teen doesn’t mean they need to do stupid things. Ditching class on occasion is one thing, dropping out is another. Help them understand that distractions happen, it is how you come back from them that matters most.