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How to inspire your teenager

28 May 2021
Mother and daughter embracing, taking selfies and enjoying sunset at the beach.

The teenage years are daunting for all parents. We asked Dr John Demartini for help, in a bid to find some common ground and household peace.

As a parent, it can be challenging to watch your teen be uninspired, bored and unfulfilled during possibly the most opportune, and potentially the most promising and most energetic days of their lives. As Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, once pronounced, “Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world – and what a pity that it has to be wasted on children!” He may well have been speaking for every parent of a listless, uninterested, uncommunicative and uninspired teenager.

This is a common issue parents of teenagers face, and often well-intentioned parents will try to fruitlessly change the situation through strict discipline and force. Yet, attempting to inspire your teen by autocratically telling them what they must or must not do, only results in them becoming hesitant, frustrated, defiant or more likely to procrastinate. This is because whatever they are being told to do is not linked to, or congruent with what they feel is currently most important to them – their highest values.

Whatever is highest on your teenager’s list of values is what they spontaneously would love to do or fulfil. Their highest values are not right or wrong, they are simply what is most important to them at the time, or at least at that moment. Values are evolving, and months or years later these values will probably transform. This list is what they identify themselves by at that moment.

Like when selling a product, service or idea to a customer, the customer is not wrong for having their top three highest values or a dominant buying motives – they are simply unique themselves. They deserve to be respected for whatever these values are. When you care enough to discover and confirm what their highest values are (their dominant buying motives) and then communicate what you would love to sell them (ideas or responsibilities) in terms of their highest values you more effectively engage them in the buying and applying them.

In the case of your teenagers, they are consumers of ideas. If you respect them as individuals and communicate what ideas or actions you would love for them to do or fulfill, you will discover that they are more responsive, receptive and flexible than first labelled. When you help your teenagers achieve what they would love they are more receptive to doing what you would love.

Like all of us, teenagers want to be loved and appreciated for who they are and not necessarily what we want to make them. Who they feel they are in each moment is a reflection of what they value most. One of the wisest ways to inspire teens is to first help them determine their true and current highest values. And secondly, to help them fill their day with meaningful activities that are congruent with those highest values or at least link the activities requested of them to their top three highest values so they feel they are achieving what they would love and doing something meaningful.

Everyone, regardless of age, culture, or gender, lives by a unique set of values – a hierarchy of values or priorities. When your teen aligns their daily actions with that which is most important to them, it awakens greater competence, and allows them to fill their day with spontaneously inspired actions. It encourages discussion about the goals that inspire them and what they can pursue to help fulfil those aims. When you help them fulfill what is truly most important to them they are more resilient to including other requested activities.

It’s also important to allow your teen to have adequate personal freedom and autonomy to explore and experience what is truly most meaningful to them. In doing so, they learn to embrace the balance of challenges and opportunities that come with it. With a loving balance of parental challenge and support, your teen will naturally develop the habit and self-confidence to solve any challenges they encounter in their evolving life… now that is inspiring!

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