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Parents do most as ‘guide on the side’

As parents, we all want certain things for our students. We want them to do well in school, be successful and be happy. But in our efforts to make sure they achieve this, we can sometimes err on the side of being overprotective. Nobody wants to see their child struggle or be frustrated but dealing with life’s challenges is an important part of becoming an adult.
Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell has studied and written about adolescents and what it takes to help them be successful in life. In this research, she has found that more than 75 percent of life’s successes are determined through teens mastering experiences and having supportive adults to encourage them. What is particularly interesting is those two things far outweigh IQ and genes combined. That’s a lot of responsibility for those with teens in their lives, but there are some guidelines to consider.
First, it is important adolescents choose activities to be involved with that give them internal reward. That might come from being involved with sports. For some students, it might come through creative outlets like drama, band or chorus. A great deal of internal reward comes from helping others. Many of our students talk about this as a part of earning their Capstone hours. Church youth groups may provide this by involving members in mission trips or service projects. Help the teens in your life find something that “feeds their soul.” They don’t need a lot of activities. They just need a few of the right ones.
As teenagers are participating in these activities, they need to be allowed to experience them as “real life.” This means they need to recognize that even activities they enjoy come with rules and challenges. There will be different types of personalities to get along with. They may need to adjust what they are doing based on feedback they get from those in charge. And while it may be tempting to step in as a parent to help teens deal with these challenges, it is important to allow them to think about how to solve any issues they may run into themselves. Advice is fine, but the growth that comes from handling their own issues is extremely valuable.
And finally, encourage the teens in your life to “stick with it.” Just because something in life gets hard, doesn’t mean you quit. It may be difficult to learn all those lines in the school play. It’s not easy to take criticism on any job – volunteer or not. And those AP classes can be much more difficult than anyone imagined. But learning you can overcome struggles and obstacles makes you a stronger person in the future. Learning this as a teen makes for a much more confident adult.
As our students grow into teens, our number one job is to become their “guide on the side.” We want them to have experiences that will challenge them while learning about the good feelings that come from internal rewards. Booker T. Washington may have said it best. “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles overcome while trying to succeed.”