Positive or negative peer pressure? A life changing choice for a teenager

Positive or negative peer pressure? A life changing choice for a teenager

“All successful people have a goal. No-one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do.”  (Norman Vincent Peale (1898 – 1993) Can you remember times as a teenager when you allowed negative peer pressure to influence your choices? Why was that? What impact did those choices have on your teenage years? Lessons learnt? Over the years I have done a lot of work in High or Secondary Schools, attended by 13 to 19-year old students. One of the greatest issues I confronted was the effect of peer pressure on the lives of these students. It is seen in the negative attitude to ‘anything’ that is said. It is seen in the way students, who want to ask questions, who want to get involved in an activity or who want to answer questions remain silent for fear of what their peers might say. It is supposedly not ‘cool’ to try too hard. Sometimes there are deeper reasons that complicate things even more, as will be evident in the four stories I’ll share in this Blog. Rachel’s story – the power of negative peer pressure I heard the story about Rachel (not her real name), who did really well at Primary School. However, when she moved to High or Senior School she only just passed her exams – 50%, 51%, those types of marks. When challenged, she admitted that she did not want to lose her friends, so she was just doing enough to get through. And, having been an enthusiastic class participant, she also retreated into herself so she did...
Why Teenagers need YOUR support and encouragement

Why Teenagers need YOUR support and encouragement

When you were a teenager, who, other than your parents and friends, had a significant influence on your life? Why was this the case? How did they influence you? Shelagh was my Grade One teacher, tough as nails on the outside, compassionate and caring when one got to know her. What was absolutely clear was that she gave her best to motivate, encourage and guide us as young children settling into Primary School. I wanted to do well for her, although her message was motivating me to reach my potential through making positive choices. On reflection, I think I had my most successful year academically that year – the power of an influential teacher! Shelagh also had a beautiful Alsatian, Alannah, which occasionally accompanied her to the classroom and received pampering from all the students. When I was seriously ill with cancer, Shelagh was there for me in her own quiet, empathetic and supportive way. She generously gave me a book of wild animals which I kept for over 50 years. She wrote me ‘get well’ cards. Although I was not interacting with her a great deal, the fact that she cared and was an encouragement and support to me, positively impacted my life and inspired me to become a teacher myself. We kept in touch all the way through my school days, indeed, until she finally passed away of old age. A special person who has left me with so many wonderful memories and I probably never really told her what a powerful impact she had had on my young life. Lessons from mentoring youth Mine isn’t the...
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...
11 ways you can guide a teenager to achieve their goals

11 ways you can guide a teenager to achieve their goals

Who helped you set and achieve your goals as a teenager? How effective was this relationship? Do you still set goals? What would you think are key ways you can help a young person on the goal-getting journey, knowing that goal setting is a positive aspect of a teenager’s brain development? How do you arrange your ducks in a row?! These are some of the questions I was pondering in recent times when when Glen came to see me. He specifically wanted assistance with planning, organization and management of his time, as he is heavily involved in his school community and a fine role model to younger students. Glen is fortunate, as he is highly motivated, works hard in and out of the classroom and has some career goals in place, but he had been feeling stressed and had not been sleeping well. I have learnt over the years that when I encourage a young person to set achievable goals, their lives take on new purpose and their energies are positively channeled in specific directions. 11 ways to assist teenagers set and achieve their goals Indeed, part of the goal-setting process during the mentoring journey is to assist your mentees to make sense of the confusion they may be experiencing (as is normal at this stage of their lives); to encourage them to try different strategies until they find what works for them. Once you have developed a relationship of respect and trust, the opportunity will emerge for a discussion on goal setting. When handled positively and in an encouraging manner, I have found on most occasions that our relationship moves...
When you understand a teenager’s brain, you become a miracle-maker!

When you understand a teenager’s brain, you become a miracle-maker!

Do you sometimes struggle to understand what is going on in the world of teenagers? Do you see a beautiful young person one day and then a monster the next? Do you tear your hair out at seemingly inexplicable mood swings? Do you throw up your hands in despair? Do you feel you are losing your relationship with a teenager? Welcome to the normal world of the teenager!  While I was researching adolescent behaviour and the latest adolescent brain research, I jotted down some key aspects of adolescent brain development. This knowledge significantly impacted HOW, when and why I communicated with teenagers from all walks of life as a parent, teacher, coach and mentor. We do well to pause from time to time and remember our own teenage experiences, how we felt at certain times, how we responded to situations, different people and so on as we journeyed through confusing times in search of meaning and purpose in our lives. A basic understanding of the teenage brain Due to the plasticity of the brain, it can be changed by experiences, a point that should always give HOPE to anyone working with young people. The frontal lobes make up 40% of the brain’s total volume. They are the seat of our ability to generate insight, judgment, abstraction, impulse control and planning. They are the source of self-awareness and our ability to assess dangers and risks, so we use this area of the brain to choose a course of action wisely. The frontal lobes are said to house the ‘Executive’ function of the human brain which only ceases developing in the...
How you can stay connected to young people

How you can stay connected to young people

Are there days when you wonder where your teenage child has come from? Or which side of the bed he or she climbed (or fell!) out of in the morning? Chances are they’re just being normal. Or, as a mentor, are there days when you wonder if you are achieving anything in your mentoring relationship? With so much going on in those young lives and the brain still developing, sometimes we just need to remember to stay focused and keep on keeping on being the loving parents and supportive and encouraging mentors we are. Maybe you need some user-friendly tips to encourage you? 20 meaningful ways to stay connected to young people So, here’s a summary of some research I did. 20 meaningful ways to stay connected to our young people, in no particular order, that overlap with many thoughts and ideas linked to the Spirit of Mentoring. We should spend time with our children, especially when we would rather be doing something else. Invest energy when we are exhausted; take family holidays together as much as possible. Remember, there are some key skills our children need in the 21st Century, which Schools might not be paying enough attention to: public speaking, management of time, relationship building skills, negotiation and resolving conflict skills. The mentoring relationship could enhance many of these. Bite our tongues when we want to lash out. Take a deep breath and count SLOWLY to 20 when we want to scream. Keep telling our children that we love them unconditionally and nothing will ever change that – be honest and authentic at all times. Tell our children...