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The Importance of Teaching Teens by Example

 “Good habits formed in youth make all the difference,” said Aristotle, and parents play a vital role in fostering these habits in their children. Most parents of adolescents will probably admit that they learn as much from their children as vice-versa, but experience is always a great teacher. The teen years are one of discovery and search for identity and often, children want to make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons. Your child may not be at a stage in which they turn to you for advice, but they learn the most from you by witnessing the examples you give. The following are just a few lessons that are worth passing down to them by word but most of all, by deed.

Embracing a Growth Mindset

Stanford University professor, Carol Dweck, was the person who coined the term ‘growth mindset’, differentiating it from a ‘fixed mindset’. People with a growth mindset do not believe that people’s innate talents and abilities are fixed. Through effort, work, and commitment, people can excel at activities, hobbies, and skills they may not have excelled in the past. To encourage your kids to embrace a growth mindset, do so yourself. Avoid words like, “I’m no good at…” “I could never…” and continue to learn, grow, and chase the activities and experiences you are passionate about.

Honing Financial Literacy

Lacking knowledge about basic financial matters such as saving, budgeting, and working out interest rates can have major consequences in one’s life. However, a survey of 15-year-olds in the US found that 18% of them did not learn fundamental financial skills that are required in everyday situations—including comparing prices, understanding the information on a bill, and making a simple budget. You can hone your teen’s basic financial knowledge by showing them how you adapt your expenses to your budget, setting aside money for your savings account, and talking about aspects such as salaries, income tax, and superannuation. You can also download banking, budgeting, and investing apps, investing a small amount on behalf of your child and asking them to manage this investment.

Exercising Emotional Regulation

Teens can answer back and challenge parents much more than they did when they were younger. Parents need to respond with emotional regulation—that is, without raising their voice, using irony or sarcasm, or distancing themselves from their children. Conflict resolution skills that can come in handy when your child raises their voice or speaks in a challenging manner include making an effort to stay calm, trying to understand the root of their behavior, and setting your limits assertively. When you are having a disagreement, avoid using ‘You’ language (‘You always’, ‘You never’), and use ‘I’ language instead (‘When you dismiss me when I ask you how your day was, it makes me feel unappreciated’). Give kids consequences for their actions but never lose your cool, so your children understand that kind, respectful language will get them further than shouting or having a teen tantrum.

Every parent has a set of key life lessons they wish their children could grasp asap. Of course, teens are at an age in which they seek more independence and want to make their own mistakes. Instead of driving a point home, it can help to lead by example. Your child may not react immediately, but somewhere down the line, they will remember your leadership and most probably be inspired to behave in a similar way.

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