Last week I shared ways to help your teenager take more initiative through my interview with Meg Lee. Meg has 20+ years working in all levels of public education and is a co-author of Mindsets for Parents: Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids. You can click here if you missed that blog.

In my discussion with Meg about how to help my boys, I realized there are some ways I am unconsciously sabotaging my teenager’s ability to take initiative.

Here is what I learned from Meg. Often when kids are very shy and lack initiative they have experienced a lot of over-supporting from home.  It is worthwhile for parents or guardians to take stock and really consider…

  • Do I speak for the child? 
  • Do I give him or her enough time to answer before I do it? 
  • Have I always been a safe fallback when the child didn’t take care of something himself or herself? 

While it is not easy to start releasing control when a child is a teen, it is necessary and important to do so.  Meg advises parents to have a conversation with the child and say, “I’ve been speaking for you sometimes when I should have waited and let you say what you thought, so I am going to be mindful of this and try to do better.  Let’s brainstorm together some of those times when it is difficult to know what to say and I’ll talk you through them so that you can handle them on your own when it happens again.”

I took Meg’s advice and had a discussion with my teenager. In our discussion, I found out that my child was frustrated when I did speak for him at times. I would jump in because I knew the answer right away when all he needed was a little more time to process the information. We also talked through a discussion he needs to have with one of his teachers that he was resisting.

Having initiative is a key skill in life. It’s a trait in almost every single job out there. If your child doesn’t have a certain level of initiative, it will hamper their success in most careers.

Here is one last tip from Meg that I want to share. She is an advocate for no screens and no headphones in the car. Why? Because the car is one place where kids tend to open up and have conversations… provided that we don’t allow them to whittle the time away playing a game or watching a show on their phones.  In the hustle and bustle of family life, having a sacred “no screens” zone in the car is a way to build peaceful time to be together.  Or be bored… which is also a good thing for the growing brain!

What do you think of the no screens or headphones in the car? Tell us in the comments.