Q From the parent of teenage kids
“I’ve watched the START TEDx talk, read the book, and am excited to implement the leadership approach in my family. What's the best strategy to do this with older kids? Mine are showing signs of resistance.”
A This is fairly common in families with teenagers. Getting everyone paddling in the same direction in today's competitive, rapidly changing environment is worth the effort. Here's how.
The Big Idea
Shifting the dynamics in your family to foster the development of leadership starts with you. When you are clear about the value of this evidence-based approach, like you are now, you begin to naturally model the key principles, which in turn provides the foundation necessary for the work to expand to your family.
As you shift to this leadership mindset, your kids - and your spouse - will notice. Because the work involves establishing boundaries and transferring responsibility for work your kids are capable of doing themselves from you to them - like managing their own things, packing their own gear bags, doing their own laundry (if they missed getting their clothes into the hamper before laundry day), and keeping track of their own calendar and schedule - some kids resist. It's human nature.
You though, are undaunted, because you are clear that the leadership path is essential to achieving the Strategic vision you have for your family and in achieving your goals for your kids - that they develop the ability to do well - self assured, responsible, resilient, and resourceful, and to be well - connected to what makes them tick, what they care about, and how they can contribute in meaningful ways. And you get there with less conflict, more fun and the engagement you and your kids are craving.
Once they see that you have shifted in your approach and engagement - less micromanaging, more connection to the purpose of activities and actions - they will respond constructively over time to your lead. They will begin to see through your actions and hear through your words that you believe in them. Parents have shared with us that when they apologized to their kids for doing their work for them, inadvertently sending a message that they did not believe in them, their kids were relieved and appreciative and then more fully engaged.
The START process, for these reasons, is an ideal path for parents of teens. It's our last chance to show our kids that we believe in them, that we see them as capable before they head off to college. Their ability to thrive and prosper depends on it.
How You Can Take Action
First Step: It's beneficial for the family to see you reading and referring to the START book and workbook. Let them see you doing your own WIN Map, Leadership Assessment, and EQ reflection.
Next Step: Identify your top 5 values and draft a family Strategy- your strategic vision, values, and goals. It would be beneficial for the family to see you doing the exercises - but you don't need to talk about it. Model it through your behavior. Capture your family strategy and your top values on a print out or poster and put it up in your room or your office.
Your Family Strategy might look something like this:
To live a meaningful life with courage and grace.
What I Value
Putting Family First
I choose activities and actions that support the development of Responsibility, Resilience, and Resourcefulness in myself and in one another
Your kids and spouse may or may not yet want to have a say in generating a Strategy the whole family agrees on. To develop your Strategy, you might cut the cards out of the back of the START workbook and use them for your own reference - pinning a new one each day on the fridge for you to keep in mind. If they show interest over time, ask them their thoughts on the values you've choses – perhaps to reflect on throughout the day and to discuss at dinner. Maybe only one of the kids wants to do it - do it with him/her after school or at bedtime. You can ask questions like “Do you agree with the definition? What might you (or we) say instead? How does it show up in our family? How does it show up with your friends? In class? Do we model all of these in our family? Which do we think are most important?”
And then in your life day to day, consider your actions and the words you use when you talk with your kids and make it your intention to practice the leadership approach - tying the boundaries you set (how you expect to be treated, what you will and won't do for others, etc) and the actions you take back to your family Strategy.
When you make decisions about what activities in which you choose to participate, you can use a decision tree like the one outlined in the Tactics chapter of the book and workbook. When your kids need to make decisions and are talking it over with you, you can use an informal Tactical Decision Tree to support them in framing and making their decision. You can also make note of areas where you and/or they are using Routines and note the benefits of doing so. Where they don’t yet exist, establish them. Start with yourself and when they begin to open up, work with your kids to establish Routines in their lives – homework, getting ready for school, the night time routine, where they put their keys (so you’re not recruited every morning to help them find them), etc.
It can all be done playfully and with a light heart. It can be woven in to day to day life. None of it need be overt. You modeling the leadership behaviors is the most important and impactful step.
So start with you. Read the book. Make notes in the margins. Circle the ideas that resonate with you. Share them, when appropriate, with your spouse – and when they’re ready, with your kids. Acknowledge all the areas you and they are already doing this work. Consider apologizing to your kids for doing work you know they are capable of, and for not providing clarity about the purpose and value of their work. And then connect the dots for and with them - how the beautiful and courageous work they're doing in their lives is equipping them with the tools they will use to live a life they love and can be proud of.
It's a subtle but powerful shift in mindset and behavior that requires strategic thinking and clarity – and in the end, it delivers a more enjoyable family experience while equipping your kids with the tools they need to become the intrinsically motivated, emotionally intelligent young adults you believe they’re capable of being.
Wishing you well.