How to Get Your Teenager to Take More Initiative

Do you have this issue with your teenager? You tell them to speak with their teacher to resolve a concern about a grade, to find out more about a project, or to reach out to their guidance counselor. But they just don’t do it. As parents, it’s frustrating because we can’t understand why it’s so hard for our kids to have these conversations. We wonder why they just won’t take the initiative. To help me overcome this challenge with my own kids, I reached out to Meg Lee, co-author of Mindsets For Parents: Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids. Meg has over 20 years experience in working in at levels in public education.

Meg shared with me an easy strategy you can use to help your child take more initiative when it comes to having conversations with adults.

Institute a back-and-forth journal with your teenager

This simple book, which can be passed back and forth at regular intervals, gives the teenager a chance to talk to the parent in a safe way, as both parties have time to digest what is being said.  Often, parents write more at first, but Meg has found much power in helping to bring out the root causes of teens’ challenges, and in this case, it might help coax the child to be a bit more assertive. 

This concept could extend to talking to others like their teachers or guidance counselor… if your teenager is not comfortable going to speak with that person, would they be comfortable writing a note at first?  This is often a good first step for kids who fear not knowing how to handle what an adult might ask of them in a conversation.  While not a substitute for being comfortable with face-to-face interaction, this is often a good starting point.

Meg also shares that role-playing conversations with a trusted adult can be a wonderful way for teens to gain confidence.  It may sound goofy (and your child will certainly think so), but it is worth trying just to give them some language to use or some background experience before they have to enter a conversation or situation when they have to take initiative. Helping your child learn to take more initiative will serve them well throughout life – in college, their careers, and in relationships. What tips do you have to help your child take more initiative? Tell us in the comments below.

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