Why you should never quit on a teenager – Billy’s story

Why you should never quit on a teenager – Billy’s story

Have you ever wanted to give up mentoring a teenager? Or just felt you were getting nowhere? Or felt totally frustrated about being a mentor? Maybe a combination of all these thoughts and more? This relationship seemed tougher than climbing the highest mountain? “I’m  ….. uh ….. in trouble again!” That unmistakably negative 15 year old voice in my ear as I drove across the Auckland Harbor Bridge to my North Shore home. Monday evening. Could the day really get any worse?  I had lost two potentially major business deals and now Billy. “What’s the trouble, Billy?” I asked, desperately trying to remember some mentor training tips. Disapprove of the behaviour, but love the child. “It’s that peach-head Mr Squires. Says I cheated in the Maths test, but I didn’t, Tony, I swear …….” “I believe you, Billy.” “No-one else does!” A hint of anxiety in his voice. A short silence. “My dad’s going to murder me when he hears I’m internally suspended.” I pictured a terrified Billy, shoulders drooped, looking up to his dad, a brute of a man, owner of a building construction company,  hesitatingly breaking this news. Would this be the last straw in an already fragile relationship? “Where are you, Billy?” “The Mall.” “Okay, meet me at the Food Court in 15 minutes.” “What’s the point? This whole program sucks. My friends were right …… I’ll always be a loser! Stuff school!” “Hey, Billy, meet me …….. please?!” Did he detect my concern or the feeling of irritability, the result of a tough day in the office? Both probably. Billy didn’t miss much. “Uh …...
How can we develop more resilient teenagers in this fast-paced world?

How can we develop more resilient teenagers in this fast-paced world?

What can you remember about your childhood? What were the fun activities you were involved in? How did you keep yourself occupied? Who were your friends? Any special friends? What made these friendships so special? I remember we climbed trees, created our own games indoors and outdoors, rode our bicycles, without helmets, to the local Park where we played on the variety of playground equipment available – jungle gyms, seesaws, swings, roundabouts – and caught tadpoles in the stream running through the Park, all without any adult supervision. We walked or rode to school without adult supervision and caught public transport, even in the evenings, without adult supervision. We jumped into a teacher’s car or another parent’s car if we were going to a sports match without any need of permission slips signed by our parents. We listened to the Top 20 hits of the week on a Sunday night from Radio Lourenco Marques (I was raised in Cape Town) on a transistor radio; we watched the international sports teams practising and mingled with them before and after matches, with no security guards evident; we listened to the radio, as we did not have Television – Kit Grayson Rides the Range or something like that was  daily special at about 5.00 pm; Pick-a-Box, a Quiz Show; Squad Cars, a Detective program; Mark Saxon or something similar …….  yes, those were the days and how different from life today. The rare Computers were massive machines in large office areas with punch cards …. and so I could go on. These thoughts occurred after I read an interesting Blog by Occupational...
Will this teenager’s plea for understanding touch your life?

Will this teenager’s plea for understanding touch your life?

Do you ever wonder why a teenager you are trying to communicate with seems to be on another planet? Or, seems to have too many mood swings for you to know how to cope with? Or, seems highly motivated one day and then lacking purpose and direction the next? Or, lacks self-belief and tries to cover this up in different ways? Or, seems to have ambitions, yet lacks the determination and perseverance to achieve these goals, maybe even dreams? Most of us have probably asked ourselves many of these questions from time to time. Sometimes it is helpful to pause and think back to our own teenage years and how we were responding to all the challenges in those days. As teenagers journey through their adolescent years and their brains are still developing, they, too, are confused and trying to respond to the many questions they are asking themselves, examples of which might include: Who am I? Where am I going? What do others think of me? Why does no-one seem to be listening to me? Who can I trust? Who are my friends? Well, perhaps, it’s a good time to pause and allow a teenager to share her thoughts which may or may not help your relationships with these young people. Strive to reach your potential I encourage young people to work hard to reach their potential. This requires them to set their personal goals which we discuss to ensure that they are achievable, realistic, measurable and specific. This means that they no longer have to compare themselves with anyone else, which many are doing, and can simply...
Teenagers share truths about the powerful impact of mentors in their lives

Teenagers share truths about the powerful impact of mentors in their lives

When you were a teenager, who, other than your parents and friends, had a significant influence on your life? Who was the light in a season of darkness? The go to person? The strength you were looking for? What qualities or positive attributes did this person or these people have that impacted you? HOW did they positively impact your life? How long did the relationship last? Philip was my History teacher when I was aged about 14. He brought the subject alive, had a wonderful sense of humour and fired my interest in the subject that would finally lead to my decision to become a History teacher. He was reliable, consistent, had no favorites and was scrupulously fair and a man of integrity and a deep faith. I don’t recall ever having a 1:1 conversation with him outside the classroom – I might be wrong – though he always exchanged an affirming smile when we passed one another on the school campus. He probably does not know what a positive impact he had on my life at a time when I was seeking meaning and purpose having long since retired. Reflecting on my own experiences motivated me to do more, made more urgent when I heard of the tragic passing of a young woman who had been such a wonderfully caring role model and diligent student at a school where I had been the school principal a few years earlier. I have converted about 45 blogs to short video clips, all of which are linked to encouraging youth to reach their potential. These are available on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHzVfIdmVQEwxTgvNKgp22g?view_as=subscriber  And there...
10 Tips for you to make positive connections with teenagers

10 Tips for you to make positive connections with teenagers

Think back to how you established meaningful relationships with adults when you were a teenager. Who were these people? Why did you choose to communicate with them? How did they assist your personal development and growth? Teachers, coaches, grandparents, youth workers, faith leaders, possibly an employer. Whoever connects with us will be because we have responded positively to their willingness to interact with us during the often confusing times of our adolescent journey. Most of us respond to people who encourage us, believe in us and are non-judgmental. They listen to us, respect our ideas and help us gain meaning and purpose in our lives as we journey through the often confusing teenage years while our brains are still developing. Teenagers are unpredictable and moody. This is normal as they try and find their way and deal with the incredible pressures of peers and sometimes the demanding parents. 10 Tips to connect with teenagers My research, in this case with a focus on youth mentoring research, offers 10 important tips to help volunteer adults establish meaningful relationships with teenagers. There is no ‘one’ way, as every teenager is a unique individual. These tips, however, should ensure meaningful relationships are established.v 1. Meet on ‘neutral turf’ in public places as often as you can in the early months, for safety and security reasons. Meet at the same time and the same place for the first few meetings to establish the rapport. 2. Keep the focus on your mentee. Encourage mentees to talk about their lives, their interests, their things. Talk as little as possible about yourself and, when you do...
How you can nurture and encourage teenagers to become mentally strong

How you can nurture and encourage teenagers to become mentally strong

How much support did you have around you when you were a teenager? What did that scaffolding look like, feel like and sound like? Who were the people who provided that scaffolding? What qualities or characteristics did they display in their relationship with you? Perhaps you need some positive signs to look out for? While working in my home office a while ago, I looked out to see a painter – probably in his 30s – sitting on the scaffolding opposite our apartment taking a selfie! A quick adjustment of the T-shirt, fingers repositioning the hair, seated upright – mobile phone at the ready, a smile and click! Great selfie which was quickly sent to a friend, a loved one? Four storeys up. Beautiful sea view with that perfect autumn day framed by a cloudless, brilliant blue sky. The scaffolding was secure, strong, supportive, enabling this special moment in a painter’s day to occur. He felt safe. That got me thinking about the signs of a mentally strong teenager and the scaffolding that supports him/her so that he/she would always feel safe and secure. I have spent many months collating years and years of adolescent research and, more recently, linking this research to the latest adolescent neuroscience research. This research has reiterated how important it is for youth to have significant adults as their non-judgmental Cheerleaders to walk alongside them during a critically important season of their lives while their brains are developing. 15 signs of mentally strong teenagers As these meaningful relationships are developed and the significant adult takes on an encouraging and nurturing role, here are 15...