How you can help a teenager set personal goals – quick, proven tips

How you can help a teenager set personal goals – quick, proven tips

What would you do if you could leave school today and had all the qualifications you need? You have to pay rent, transport costs, mobile phone costs, clothing, food and daily living expenses and so on. So, you must acquire a job, which includes being self-employed and setting up their own business!

That’s the type of conversation I often have when I meet teenagers and have begun to establish a meaningful relationship with them.

“I don’t know!” is not an acceptable answer, as I remind them that they have a good brain that needs to be used 🙂

This conversation will inevitably unpack a passion and, once we have identified that, we can start talking about careers in the future, maybe including an entrepreneurial project while the student is still at school. If the latter, we talk about meeting a successful entrepreneur for a further chat. We explore the qualifications needed, skills required, university or some other tertiary institution that will have to be attended. We talk about living a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

We start identifying strengths and link these to the goal getting journey, as this will build a more resilient teenager.

And so, the goal setting process begins. As the student seems to have a meaning and purpose to his or her life, they can see that action will need to be taken to achieve this fulfillment of a passion. In so many young lives, this conversation becomes the game-changer.

Suddenly, things begin to clear and they see a pathway into a bright and potentially exciting future.

15 Goal Getting Tips for Effective Mentors

You can be a parent or teacher or coach working alongside a teenager. A parent is likely to have a stronger emotional attachment so the way this journey plays out might differ slightly from the experience of a volunteer adult mentor, a teacher or a coach.

These 15 Goal Getting tips are a collation of my personal mentoring, teaching and parenting experiences:

  1. Make an effort to get to know your mentee before setting goals. Establishing a level of trust and confidentiality will enhance the goal setting process. Understandably, this might not always be possible, in which case tread a little softly with goal setting until you feel you have a better connection with your mentee.
  2. Start with easy, specific, achievable, realistic and measurable 7-day goals eg, record homework in a diary each day; eat breakfast; get up ten minutes earlier on school days.
  3. Receiving feedback on goal achievement is critical for motivation – give it regularly!
  4. Often motivation comes, not from the goals themselves, but from feeling dissatisfied if a performance level was not achieved and wanting to do better next time.
  5. Keep revising and revisiting the goals, remaining flexible – as lives change, so goals might need to change, especially if new opportunities arise.
  6. Look for performance not perfection. Let your mentee focus on the question: How do I rate compared to what I see myself capable of becoming?
  7. Avoid teasing, nagging, guilt trips – focus on positive development of your mentee.
  8. Give genuine praise and your mentee will respect your authenticity more than anything else.
  9. Look for ways to reward your mentee – behaviour that is rewarded tends to be repeated. Devise your own reward scheme e.g. special certificates, SMS messages, notes, outings and so on.
  10. Encourage your mentee to set goals around the school year – term by term or semester by semester.
  11. Encourage your mentee to use creative ways for setting goals. There is no one method that works for all. Let your mentee experiment and adapt, though they should develop the habit of writing goals down, something adolescent brain researchers suggest definitely enhances the development of the brain. Allow for the uniqueness of your mentee.
  12. Share some of your goals with your mentee to show that you are in a partnership and building a meaningful relationship.
  13. Encourage your mentee to develop a feeling of optimism about his/her future.
  14. Help your mentee appreciate that they, individually, wield great personal power, as they have control over most choices they are making.
  15. Goals should be aligned with family/cultural values when a Mentor is involved in a cross-cultural relationship. The question to ask might be: “What is the attitude of your culture towards education/goal setting?” Wherever possible, the goals should be shared with the mentee’s family. 

You might experience some high and low moments during this journey. This is normal. At such times speak to the vision you have of your mentee achieving the goals. Hold on to one of the golden rules of mentoring: NEVER quit on your mentee!

About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in New Zealand and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on on Facebook or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website  Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.