Goals help keep your teen steady and strong when life is difficult.
Study goals are most easily achieved by taking small steps most days, not by cramming in lots of information just before exams. At this stage of their life they experience rapid growth spurts and sudden surges of hormones. There are often dramas, if not with your young adult then with their friends. Many young adults feel as though they are on an emotional roller-coaster. Although of course there are times they need to take breaks when there is a major event in their lives or in your family’s life, goals will still help them focus on their study again as soon as possible.
Particularly as young adults they can often doubt their ability to achieve goals they want and might feel easily defeated when there are difficulties. They might also hear from some of their friends that study is not really that important. They might become side-tracked by friends into behaviours not conducive to good study habits such as on-line games and drinking and drugs. (As a side-issue, Gaming Disorder has become a “Condition for Further Study” in the DSM-5(APA 2013). It is not yet an “official” disorder, but a condition on which the American Psychiatric Association request additional research). Our role as their support is to help them stay calm, focused, and optimistic, by developing goals with them, and then the steady study routines and consequences useful to achieving those goals.
I aim to never give up reaching for the goals students want so that they can continue reaching for them too. Once a teen makes an agreement with me, I expect them to honour their agreements. When study agreements aren’t kept, I expect them to explain why they didn’t keep them. If it seems useful, we then discuss whether they want to change their goals and/or the agreement. I then expect them to explain what they will do to keep the agreement we have so that they can achieve the goals they want.
Teens might suffer from unhelpful study attitudes, poor study skills, and low self-belief In my experience it can sometimes take weeks before they fully honour our coaching agreement, especially those who have not had to be responsible for their actions yet. I aim to steadfastly remain as firm and consistently helpful and respectful as I can be, so they will take responsibility for their own learning and will reach the goals we decided on together.
Does your teen show non-compliance and how does that appear? Students are usually non-compliant when they have not yet taken responsibility for their learning. Sometimes they might actively fight your decisions by arguing, shouting, and refusing. Although those behaviours might shock and upset you, it can be easier to communicate with young adults who are directly and openly fighting with you.
If your teen does not believe that they have the power to actively and openly fight you, they will often be non-compliant in quieter and more passive ways that are often quite difficult to notice. They might talk with you only when necessary, or do what they want to do when you are not looking, or unconsciously sabotage agreements between you while seeming to agree with you. Unconscious sabotage is the hardest to pinpoint and very common in teens and in children. Such sabotage can include when they forget information, appointments, or agreements, lose equipment and books, seem unable to do a simple task set them that they could do previously, often feel sick or tired when it is time to work, seem unable to concentrate, sulk and not talk with you except when they need to, talk incessantly about unrelated matters or pick fights with you about unrelated issues so that you get sidetracked. If your teen has some sort of related underlying condition, they might also behave in some of those ways, but even then I have found that those behaviours can often be minimised when they take full responsibility for their own learning and you both work to find ways that they can learn more easily.
You might not realise at first that many of these behaviours are non-compliant ones and your young adult might not believe that those behaviours are either. Perhaps for example both of you believe that they are naturally forgetful or not able to concentrate well or are often tired. Notice however that your young adult might not forget information they find important and want to remember, that they can be alert, energised and ready for activities they like, and that they can concentrate for hours to master a skill they enjoy doing. It often just depends on their state of mind when sitting down to study. Are they fully on board with getting on with the required work to reach their goals or are they not? It is usually that simple.
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