launch your teens with life skills
Updated: Mar 27
"The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility. They are the launching pad of life." Alex and Brett Harris
We need to prepare our teens with life skills for the real world so they become independent thinkers, motivated and engaged young adults who push through setbacks and take ownership of their lives.
Here are 3 areas to consider:
1. Give responsibility that reflects the real world:
Let`s begin with chores. Chores are good for them so give regular chores. Chores teach that life is not about "me." Others are affected by my actions. When I don’t clean the bathroom, someone else must use a dirty bathroom. Each family member has a responsibility towards one another and all members need to work together for family unity. We all have a part to play and when someone is not towing the line, everyone suffers. This is what happens in any organization or business in the real world. Teens need to learn cooperation early on and not suffer the consequences of losing their job for lack of participation when they enter a future work position.
Additionally, we do not pay our sons for doing their chores in our home. No one pays me for cooking for my family. No one pays me for doing the grocery shopping. Why should some members get paid and others not? It`s up to each family to decide what works best but if we want to teach our children about the real world of work, then let`s start training them with these life concepts early on. One day when they are running their own homes, they can pay others for cleaning but with that comes affordability and a cost.
2. Skin in the game won`t harm them:
Indulging your teens without some skin in the game will have some consequences. Let them buy their own cell phones or contribute to the monthly costs or save some money to make a contribution. This will also allow them time to wait for something they really want. Delayed gratification helps them learn patience and appreciation. Help them understand the real costs in the real world.
Teach the value of things; it takes hard work to buy nice things. My son saved up for 18 months to buy his first camera at 16. It was his most memorable purchase. I asked him what made it his most memorable purchase and he replied: "because it took so long." In the real world, parents put a lot of skin in the game so their teens can have (nice) things!
Skin in the game teaches valuable life skills - how to save, budget, plan ahead, spend wisely. When it comes to credit cards, we have taught our boys two principles: "Spend money that you have." Most American families spend money they don`t have. They rely heavily on credit cards and then get into serious debt. If you don`t have it in your bank account, then you don`t have it to spend. Second: "Only use credit cards to build a credit score and to earn rewards, not primarily for spending.“ Paying off credit cards at the end of the month with "money that they have in their bank accounts" will also earn them rewards. Encourage living within their means.
3. Help them with self-regulation:
“The adolescent brain is like a Farari with faulty brakes, the impulsive risk-taking part goes very fast and the judgment part of the brain is lacking.” Madeline Levine, psychologist.
The prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part (good judgment, awareness of long-term consequences, self regulation) isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. An adolescent processes information more with the amygdala, the emotional part of the brain. We need to give teens opportunities to practice self-regulation and self-control so the prefrontal muscles can get a work out.
Self-regulation involves controlling our behavior, emotions, and thoughts. It is a set of skills that enables our teens to direct themselves towards a goal. Self-regulation improves self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
“I just want my teen to be happy,” will not help teach self-regulation. We learn this during setbacks and pushing through hard situations.
What we want to see in our teens, we need to model in our own lives. We set the tone and they learn habits by watching us.
Some ways you can help your teens develop self-regulation:
In conflict resolution, do you solve their problems? Ask them questions that help them do the solving. Encourage critical thinking.
How do you manage stress? How do they imitate you? Help them to discover ways to combat stress.
How resilient are they when handling setbacks? Teach them to have a healthy perspective to failure and how to "fail forward." Failing forward is about having a growth mindset, learning from failure and seeing it as an inevitable part of the process to success. It is necessary, normal and it`s going to happen. Benjamin Franklin said, “the things which hurt, instruct.”
How developed are their problem solving skills? Involve them in brainstorming solutions together and encourage their ideas and possibilities. Be curious about their thoughts and opinions.
Give them skin in the game so they can practice delayed gratification to learn patience, gratitude and self-control. Demonstrate in your own life.
Involving teens in the home and community as much as possible will help develop these skills. We need to create opportunities for our teens to make decisions, set goals and practice routines and good habits. Some examples are job shadowing, internships, part time jobs, club projects and others.
Now is the time for your teens and young adults who are still living at home to take more chances, be courageous, start a business or pursue exciting (ad)ventures. Encourage them to take chances NOW when they have less to lose than when the stakes are high later on. If they make mistakes now, it`s easier on them as they don’t have a mortgage to pay or a family to take care of.
“Leaders can let you fail yet not let you be a failure," Stanley McChrystal, retired former commander of U.S and international forces in Afghanistan
We can let our teens fail without letting them be a failure if we have helped them develop a healthy perspective to failure, so they "fail forward." We need to give them permission to fail and make mistakes so they don`t feel judged. We all mess up! It`s part of life. Help your teenagers develop a growth mindset and have the courage to fail and learn from the experience. You help them "fail forward" when you don`t judge them, give them space to mess up, offer forgiveness and accept them for who they are. Support them to be better and do better so they are better prepared for life`s disappointments into adulthood.
We successfully launch our teens when we have "let go of control" and allow them to take ownership of their lives as we train them in some hard life lessons. Then they can only move forward and excel.
Here is a FREE resource with ideas of how you can prepare your teenagers for adulthood with practical life skills.