The artic blast this week gave our family one gift: time together.

The day off was a nice moment to reconnect—and clean out our teenagers’ rooms. They were thrilled. Ha.

Cleaning out closets is an archeological dig through their past goals and passions. Remember those years of softball? Tennis? Learning the guitar? Your Etsy era?

If you also cleaned out closets this week, your teen probably had mixed reactions to throwing out their past projects. Maybe your high schooler saw their left-behind passions as part of growing up. Or maybe they felt ashamed. It’s embarrassing to admit you couldn’t meet your goals. 

As I helped my teens sort through brochures from the recent college fair, and throw away journals with only three entries, we talked about expectations and how to be successful at what you really want to accomplish. 

So often, teens underestimate sacrifice and overestimate reward. When reality doesn’t meet their expectations, they give-up. Too many failures, without enough wins, can damage the way they see themselves. Their proverbial (and actual) closet of failed goals feels shameful, and they stop trying new things. 

As adults, we better understand the work that goes into any goal. In a world that romanticizes the quick, high school students aren’t yet tuned in to the nitty-gritty of ups and downs. This means they give up too easily when reality turns out to be harder than they expected. 

As a Growth Coach, I help teens set realistic goals. We talk about how most plans take longer than expected. Hopefully they learn that the best gift is what they learn about themselves and about God along the way. 

Here are three ways you can help your high schooler manage their expectations.

Ask Questions & Listen to Your Teen– 

To help your student set realistic expectations, ask questions like, “What steps can you take to achieve this goal?” or “How will you handle setbacks along the way?”

Stay curious about why your high schooler wants to achieve this. Ask what they believe they’ll gain from playing varsity or from maintaining an A average. Pay attention to when they equate success with happiness. 

Tell your own stories about goals that didn’t work like you planned. Emphasize what you learned. Share how the detours of life taught you more about God and yourself than the glowing successes did.

Emphasize Effort Over Outcome – 

Don’t fixate on end results. Instead, be sure to talk about what progress your teen has made. Help your high schooler see failure as a necessary toward improvement. Instead of quitting, this is a good time to talk about course correction.

Also, be aware of the messages your teen is consuming on social media. Watching endless hours of influencers with an agenda makes life look instant. Your teen needs honest connection much more than they need more unrealistic scrolling. 

When you talk about heroes, talk about perseverance instead of success. What sacrifices has Jose Altuve made to hit so many homeruns? When would Messi have been tempted to quit—and what kept him going?

Encourage Diverse Experiences-

Everyone in your family is an Aggie and your teen is set on being the next 12th man? Awesome. Building a family connection around legacy and hard work is important to their identity.

But understand your teen is different than you and from their siblings. Their path to College Station, or playing college baseball, or a 4.0 is so much more about their own growth.

Your child benefits so much from a wide range of experiences and people. Talk to college students who played sports for a few semesters and then stopped. Listen to stories from Aggies who left after a year. Encourage your high schooler to keep exploring ideas and passions—even if it means more to clean out of the closet later.

These experiences will help your teen understand how life really works. God takes us on all kinds of detours and has so much more in store for us than we realize. 

Be confident in God’s plan for your teenager and let them see that college, grades, and sports are not a one-size-fits-all situation. If your volleyball player doesn’t make varsity, check out the cross-country team and meet a whole group of new friends who are working hard for different goals. 

About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.