Many parents wish their teens would make changes, but even when teens try, failure is often the result. The popular reality show “The Biggest Loser” really sends an important message home — one that transcends the fitness focus of the show: If your family is truly on board with the changes you’re making, you’re in a far better position to achieve your goals than if your family is not. The principle rings true regardless of a person’s goals, demonstrating how important a good support system truly is.
Consider the stark contrast between the wife who happily revamps the living room, replacing recliners for exercise equipment, and the one who refuses to stop stocking the kitchen cabinets with junk food. Perhaps the contestant’s family can handle the temptation of readily accessible potato chips and would be motivated to go out of their way to work out. But only one family provides the kind of support and companionship on the journey that helps set up the contestant for weight loss success. For your teen, perhaps the goals are school-related or savings-based. Maybe the need is simply to become more self-disciplined or to forgo a bad habit. Family members can adopt the same goals or parallel ones and track successes or even run contests as each person attains new goals.
In addition to the social aspect of a support system, it can provide much-needed motivation through accountability. If family members aren’t on board with a teen’s goals or lifestyle changes, they’ll be unlikely to provide the kind of external motivation those lacking the inner drive may need. Let’s face it: If your teen knows you don’t really value their successes, they probably won’t respond well to negative remarks. Accountability is different from nagging or discouragement, though, just like truly constructive criticism is distinct from harsh negativity. Again, sharing your own goals or running a parallel race will give you the ideal setup to provide the kind of accountability that lends itself to productive change.
It’s important that your teen knows your motivation for providing support is based in solidarity — that you’re for them, not just for changing them. Sometimes the most driven parents can send the wrong message, so expressing your love, even when achievement isn’t as high as you had hoped, is as important as providing support. The idea is to help your teen achieve his or her potential and feel that rewarding sense of accomplishment — not to make him or her into someone else, especially another version of yourself.
As you provide affirmation of your solidarity in addition to accountability and companionship, you’ll set your teen up for success in whatever changes he or she is attempting to make.
Photo credits: Top © kouptsova / Fotolia. Bottom © Iakov Filimonov / Fotolia.