Self-Sabotaging Teens and the Search for Success

Ken Rabow talks about ways to help troubled teens challenge their limiting beliefs

There is a group of roughly 20% of our youth who are doing great in school, in relationships and in their lifestyles but for the majority of the young people today, being a self-sabotaging teen is the norm.

So many parents and teachers are finding more and more kids who are non-compliant to the point of failing to thrive, educationally, emotionally and/ or nutritionally. There have always been problems with getting teens and young adults to “get things going” but it seems that this generation is having more difficulty than we remember through the rose-colored memory glasses of our youth. They are the self-sabotaging teens.

What are the stumbling blocks that have so many young people today choosing to derail everything that they are given instead of testing their mettle and what are the remedies?
It comes down to three things:
1) Lack of Inspiration
2) Perfectionism
3) Instant gratification


Challenges for Self-Sabotaging Teens

For most teenagers, school, sports, music or other traditional organized interests offers a chance for them to see adult role models and pick what they want to incorporate into their own lives, but for teenagers who did not make those mainstream connections, there is no adult role model physically present for inspiration.

Remedies for Self-Sabotaging Teens:

Let them embrace whatever they are passionate about and find groups who get together to work on perfecting their craft. It is in the day to day work of things that they love that they shall find the resolve to rise above their personal challenges. There is another way: Find a mentor outside their regular circle of friends and family to help them find their positive power and release their fears.

Procrastination in Self-Sabotaging Teens:

Most people blame this generation’s chronic habit of putting off everything to laziness. In my experience, procrastination occurs from these young adults caring too much about succeeding.
When getting a 70% is not good enough, or any interest in a new hobby is met with pointing out the flaws, the child determines that it is better not to try anything new past the infatuation stage and as for school; if they wait until the last moment to study, they can always live with: “60%?!? What would have happened if you had only studied sooner?” knowing they don’t have to ever worry about it as they have the perfect excuse – “meh, I’m just lazy!”

Minimize focusing on natural raw talent. Let your child know that it’s ok to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes and change and grow from your experiences. In fact, that is where most greatness comes from. It’s too late to undo the desire for Baby Mozart factory-made geniuses but it’s not too late for their genius to flower by learning from mistakes and creating their own structures for success from them. The best way is let them see your mistakes. Own them and show them how you learn from them. It’s all in the process not the potential.

Self-Sabotaging Teens and Instant Gratification:
Young people today will not wait more than 3 seconds for a website to load before moving on. Their average conversations are texted and their group-speak is on Twitter or Facebook. Food is only food if it can be eaten several moments after being chosen. A pot or pan is only an obstruction to getting the “good food” they want.

Make the time for slow stuff in your life. Cook from scratch at least twice a week. It could be chicken breasts in a nice spice with some steamed veggies, or a chili prepared in the morning and slow-cooking until you get home at dinner. Grow something in the garden and take a few moments each day to tend to it. Knit or paint or something else that is slow to unfold. If you are saying that you just don’t have the time – you are back to the challenge. Teach by example and then invite them to show you how they would do it differently and embrace their ideas. Use those ideas and learn together from them, free of judgment. They will learn the magic of the process of creation.

The phrase I often hear from my young clients at some point or another is “if I choose to fail and I do … then I’ve won!” This system that they have perfected over most of their lifetime encompasses every aspect of their lives; from school to hobbies foisted upon them, from therapists that they have learned to toy with so well, to the addictions that give them a false sense of empowerment; their coping strategies are the only ones they have learned to count on to keep themselves safe.

It is the simple things in life from where we obtain our deepest lessons.

Embrace them into your life and see the effect it has on your children.

The work I do with young adults is about helping them find their personal, positive power. I let them know that they will be in charge, making all the decisions, with me being their guide. I may turn them around from a dead end but they walk each step so that they own every victory and defeat, growing from each.

Once they choose to look for a different way and start a daily routine of simple effective steps to find their own positive power, these young adults embrace these new possibilities, showing amazing amounts of courage and fortitude. The best work in guiding young adults is done in team work. They really do possess all the answers.

Passion, process, patience are the keys.

When in doubt, find an outside mentor for young adults.

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Author: Ken_Rabow

Ken Rabow is the Mentor's Mentor for Troubled Teens, Young Adults and their Families