Mindset #1 – Internal Locus of Control
As teens begin their journey from adolescence into adulthood, their dual sense of individuality and conformity start to clash. They feel at the mercy of authority figures—principals, teachers, parents, and other adults—who may force them into ideas of socially accepted norms, leading many teens to think that they are not in control of their lives and unable to make a difference or affect change in their environment. Of course, it’s great to set values and instill manners for your teen so that they understand and thrive within society as an adult, but it is also good to show them that they have the internal ability to make things happen in the external world.
Mindset #2 – Growth
When you hear your teen say things like “I did poorly on the test. I’ll never
be good at math,” what do you do? This phrase comes from a mindset that is fixed. With a fixed mindset, your child will honestly believe that they will only be good at whatever it is they seem to be good at, and that this cannot and will not change. They honestly believe that there is only a fixed amount of things they will ever be truly good at. We both know that this is never the case. Your teens may spend more time documenting what it is that they are skilled or talented at, instead of developing more skills and new talents. They believe that they are born with certain talents, and that talent alone creates success—without effort. Of course, they are wrong.
One method for encouraging a growth mindset is the use of deliberate, or intentional, practice. Deliberate practice is guiding a child in learning a new or weak skill/subject through high‐quality practice versus lower‐quality but higher quantities of practice. This simply means that if your teen is not focused on playing the piano, and is just mindlessly playing the notes, s/he will never become truly adept as a pianist. Being fully in the moment and completely concentrating on the task at hand will place your child on a path towards true understanding and mastery of that skill or subject.
Mindset #3 – Gratitude
Anyone can be guilty of taking what s/he has for granted—young and old. The only difference, for many, is that older people have had more of those things taken away, or lost, and have generally therefore developed more gratitude. The danger is in always relating one’s happiness with another’s, and coveting that person’s belongings, awards, or situation.
Study after study, a strong gratitude‐focused mindset has also shown remarkable long‐term benefits, such as helping people to feel less depressed and happier overall. One great exercise to develop this mindset it to encourage your child as early as possible to keep a gratitude journal, and to write in it as often as possible. Through this continual exercise, your teen will never have to be told how lucky they are—they will slowly realize this for themselves.
Gifts of gratitude such as letters and cards, given often, are another great way to further develop your teen’s mindset. Helping your child to develop a habit of reflecting on their blessings and bringing joy to others through expressing their gratitude often will increase their chances of happiness and success in the future.
Mindset #4 – Visualization of Success
When coaches tell athletes to imagine themselves making a winning goal, or a tie‐breaking shot, they aren’t just doing it for motivation. Recent studies within the past several years have uncovered connections between the use of the right hemisphere of the brain in influencing tangible achievements. Visualization exercises are now regularly a part of pre‐planning routines of Olympians and other peak performers. Creatively visualizing a desired result gives the athlete greater confidence even before they start.
Get your teen to stand in front of a mirror, and say to themselves the reasons why they will do well and succeed. These reasons could be the amount theypracticed, the effort they put in, the great outfit they are wearing, the good night’s sleep they got, or even their great smile.
Just as how our minds can affect our physical performance, even more recent studies have also shown that physical aspects can also in turn affect us mentally. So when your child is practicing before that competition, make sure they are wearing the appropriate attire for the event, and is poised in confident postures—back straight, face forward, and hands on hips or to the side. When your child visualized success, did they see themselves accepting the award with a hunched back, looking down and reserved? No! They were smiling and ecstatic, with their hands in the air. Don’t let your teen half‐visualize their success. Get them to mirror it completely, and they will become the change that they see.
Mindset #5 – Mindfulness & Being Present
We’ve all experienced negative thoughts. As teens, your children will be more prone to these types of thoughts as they face more and more challenges. With negative thoughts that cloud your teen’s mind and prevent them from fully focusing, your teen must learn to be present, and have a mindset of mindfulness.
This mindset helps your child to recognize negative thoughts for what they are, and observe these feelings without judging whether they are good or bad. If your teen has done poorly on a subject before, what kind of thoughts do you think will be blurring your child’s mind the next time they take an assessment? Negative thoughts—thoughts of self‐doubt and potential failure. Will these thoughts help your teen to do well on the test or project at hand? No, they won’t. Will these thoughts prevent your child from fully focusing on the assessment? The answer is most certainly, yes.
By focusing and dwelling on these thoughts, even into the future, your teen will not be able to move forward. This mindset of being present is about neither focusing on the judgments (good or bad) of these thoughts nor the thoughts themselves, but rather focusing on tasks at hand, and realizing how these thoughts make your teen feel. They will slowly learn to let their negative thoughts pass and to let them go.
This program works with teens to continually practice and learn this mindset through meditative and scheduled “slow down” exercises as well as through the use of journaling.
Mindset #6 – Choosing and Creating Strong Relationships
No one succeeds alone. Humans are naturally social creatures, having evolved to depend on others for protection, resources, and emotional fulfillment. Relationships enrich our lives. In today’s competitive environment, less focus is on learning to truly work as a team, and it is easy to lose sight of the importance of the other aspects of our lives, aside from academics and personal development.
If your teen is not getting along well with others or has trouble making friends, have them make a list of attributes that they would like in a good friend. Next, ask your teen if they would be willing to take on those attributes themselves. This forms the basis of how your teen should act, and how they expect to be treated. If your teen wants a friend who will be generous, your teen, in turn, must also be willing to share.
Friends, teachers, coaches, family members—these are all people with whom we build relationships. They are whom we depend on, learn from, confide in, offer comfort, and most of all, share experiences with. Teens who learn how to build strong relationships with others will be surrounded by a supportive community. This same community, in turn, will help them through difficult times in their lives and celebrate with them during the best times in their lives. As an increasingly mobile society, it will become more important than ever to be able to have the skills to build and maintain connections with others wherever they go, from high school to university to internships at work.