Eight ways to anchor adolescent growth
Encouraging specific behaviors can stabilize adolescent growth.
Posted May 10, 2009
Brief, but hopefully to the point, here are eight "anchors" that seem to steady a young person through the tumultuous "teenage" years. Over the course of counseling families with adolescents, I have repeatedly noticed this odd collection of practices that, consistently in place, seem to secure teenage growth. Individually each is helpful, but taken together they provide significant stabilizing power. After listing each one, I speculate about the contribution that is made.
-- COMPLETING HOMEWORK. Separate from any academic value, fulfilling this nightly study obligation provides work ethic training. By exerting sufficient strength of will to get done what is in one's best interests when it is not what one wants to do, the young person develops self-discipline.
-- CLEANING UP ONE'S ROOM. At a more disorganized and messy age, this instills the principle of living on parental terms. By abiding their desire (and supervision) for order in the home, a young person consents to go along with what matters to them.
-- DOING HOUSEHOLD CHORES. Unpaid, this regular investment of energy and effort meets family membership requirements. By investing in home maintenance and support, the young person becomes a working contributor to the family.
-- JOINING IN FAMILY ACTIVITIES AND GATHERINGS. Socially participating in family events affirms primary social affiliation. By joining in, the young person is reminded of the abiding importance of family over the pressing (and often passing) value of peers.
-- VOLUNTEERING FOR COMMUNITY SERVICE. Acting for larger social good shows concern for welfare of others. Demonstrating responsibility one has for those in need in the larger community, the young person becomes less self-centering and appreciates having help to give that is worth offering.
-- SAVING MONEY. Putting some earned and given money by instead of immediately spending it is a lesson in delaying gratification. Exercising self-restraint, setting priorities, the young person learns to resist impulse and temptations of the moment and to even plan ahead.
-- DEVELOPING PROFICIENCY. Cultivating interests and capacities through application and practice builds a sense of competence. Working to do something well or know something thoroughly, the young person builds self-esteem and self-confidence.
-- RELATING TO SALIENT ADULTS. Enjoying the company of significant adults who are not your parents creates the opportunity for having grown up influential friends. In these older relationships the young person is offered a more mature frame of reference to respond to and live up to than that offered by peers.
Do I know for sure if these eight "anchors" will steady adolescent growth? No. But what I do know is this. A young person
-- Who never does homework,
-- Who never cleans up his room,
-- Who never does household chores,
-- Who never participates in family activities,
-- Who never contributes community service,
-- Who never saves money,
-- Who never develops any proficiency,
-- Who never befriends salient adults,
will follow a rough and tumble path through adolescence.
Next week's entry: Adolescent Dating -- What makes a good relationship?
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