The number one challenge faced by parents in supporting their teenagers to fulfil their potential

There are not many things that give me as much pleasure as speaking to parents and teenagers about their dreams and aspirations, and this is a journey that I’ve been on since 1993. It has been largely a tremendous experience and I’m glad to say that it’s been overwhelmingly filled with jubilations; however, it would be disingenuous to say there haven’t been tribulations along the way as well.

The world is full of experts and many of them are very useful in using their expertise to help people solve problems. But there is one particular area in which I believe experts do not exist: parenting. Parenting is a challenge and there is no magic wand. I guess the reason is perhaps it is not a problem that can be solved as such, as every child is different, and it is a very tricky balancing act to manage the emotional roller-coaster that sits at the heart of parenting.

Being a parent is a life sentence. This sounds rather extreme but, if you would allow me, I have a short story to illustrate this. I remember when I was a teenager, my grandfather persuaded my father to buy a car instead of riding a motor bike to work every day, and he was relieved when father finally bought one. The thing is, my father not only kept leaving his car at home and riding his motorcycle to work, it was also made worse for my grandfather as my 15-year-old brother started getting a lift to school (a 35km journey) on my father’s motorbike every day. The relief and happiness on my grandfather’s face, each time my father got back from work in the evening was a joy to see. Having said all this, I can never possibly image life without my children, and I have to confess I’m not really looking forward to when they leave home!

As I said earlier, I do not think there are experts when it comes to parenting, and if there are, I’m certainly not one of those. The only thing I have to offer, which perhaps some parents may find helpful, is to share some of my observations. These are the commonalities and patterns that I’ve seen in the interactions between high achieving teenagers and their parents in the last three or so decades. Yes, people are different and what works for a particular family will not necessarily work for another. However, in any field of endeavour, despite the huge variation in people, their characters and circumstances and so on, there are always a few commonalities among those who do well. Sadly, there are also commonalities amongst those who do not do well. I will focus on the positives here, as it is not for me to dictate what people must or must not do with their children.

In less than three months, many teenagers will face their GCSEs and A-level examinations. These exams are not everything in life; however, there are consequences for underachievement. The least we can do as parents it to do our best to help maximise the chances of our teenagers achieving to their full potential. Not everyone is going to obtain the very top grade, but failure to do what they should do to achieve their potential is doing injustice to themselves.

In the process of helping your teenager to achieve his or her full potential, below are the three or four things I’d like to suggest.

  1. Assist your teenager to set a goal in the grade to achieve in each of the subjects. This can be in either the subjects that matter to the teenager or the ones that society values more – probably a mixture of both. It is only after this that establishing where they are and how to bridge the gap can be done successfully
  2. Help to create a success environment – both physical and psychological. It could be where they study, the materials they need or the help and support they may need to do well
  3. Continuously encourage and reassure them that you are there for them and try to establish a situation of trust, where they feel they can speak to you or someone who will help them to get what they need to succeed. It’s not easy with a teenager but it’s vital
  4. If your son/daughter is taking exams this summer, yes, there are just three months to go. Do not think it’s too late, as so much can be done in the period we have left. What is at stake is huge – it is potentially future determining.

I’m not pretending in any way that the above is simple, as it is not, especially when we are speaking about teenagers. There are so many moving parts and each aspect of the above has many mini aspects to it. What I am putting forward here is just a suggestion that you may want to use as a guide. You know your teenager better than anyone else does and you can decide how to implement each aspect, and other things you may want to add.

Happy parenting and speak to you soon.

To the success of your child

Idris Musty