Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An Idea Whose Time Has Come - Teenagers Working on Personal Development

For over 30 years my work has been focused on adult personal development - personal strengths and people skills. My company, Performance Support Systems, has published some award-winning internationally recognized assessment and development systems, all brain and behavior-based. For nearly 20 years our flagship product has been 20/20 Insight, a flexible online platform for administering customized feedback surveys. During that time it has benefited millions of people worldwide - and not just leader-managers - all the people who work around them.

And then one day, not long ago, it dawned on me.

All these people we've been helping have been playing catch-up. They were working on areas of individual behavior and performance that they should have learned a long time ago. They were busy replacing old, dysfunctional habits with new, best practices.

Where did these bad interpersonal behavior patterns come from? They certainly weren't taught them in school. No, they learned them from their families and on the street. They learned how to be and how to act and how to communicate without even knowing they were learning it. Whatever seemed to work.

And then, decades later, they discovered that many of these ways of dealing with people were making relationships difficult. They were causing problems and holding themselves back.

That's why most people end up using our services, to do the hard work of changing a hurtful behavior pattern. The old way isn't working anymore. It's causing too much pain.

So yes, it dawned on me. All these people were learning skills and strengths they should have acquired when they were young. But when they were in high school and college, these areas of ability weren't addressed. And none of the adults around them, including their parents, could guide these young people or even knew that they needed guidance.

It dawned on me that what we were helping adults learn with ProStar Coach should be made available to teenagers. Yes, no one thought about it back then, and no one is thinking about it now. No one except me and my colleagues who work with me on ProStar Coach.

It's an idea whose time has come: Teenagers need to work on personal development. They need to start now to get strong as individuals so they don't have to play catch-up later. So they don't have to experience the pain of ineffectiveness in their work and personal relationships, and then desperately try to go against the grain of lifelong habits to rewire themselves for core skills and strengths as adults.

I know, I know. This idea is really outside the box. It's so different that you're probably thinking things like: "Most teenagers won't make the effort. As soon as they hear about it they'll laugh and call it bullshit."

My answer to that is that I expect the vast majority of teens to think this way. That's what most of them have been saying about mainstream courses for over a century - about subjects like science, math and English.

You can't make kids learn. They only learn what they choose to learn. I know that.

So I'm not interested in the kids who blow off their education. I can't help them. I'm really only interested in the 15-20% of teenagers who are already internally motivated to learn.

And I mean I'm really interested. It's my next big shot at making a difference. At my age, maybe it's my last big shot. I want to help teenagers work on personal development.

Initially, I'll communicate this idea to caring parents of teens. Through them, I'll build a bridge of communication to the teens themselves.

If you're interested, please visit my new blog: Strong for Parenting. I'm known there as the "Teen Brain Guy." The teen brain - that's my focus. As for the myriad of other teen-related issues, I plan to help parents gain access to all the excellent experts out there who address the more traditional aspects of parenting teens.

I also invite you to check out my two new books for young teens - mostly middle-school kids who are beginning the perilous and momentous 12-year journey called adolescence.

Conversations with the Wise Aunt and Conversations with the Wise Uncle.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2012. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use image purchased from istockfoto.com)


kimunya said...

Great approach Danny, love it. Capture them young and provide them with direction. I believe this also helps them retain their creativity and inspire them to choose what to learn.

We started even earlier with our children. Our six year old surprised us, and inspired this blog post... "A primary function of leadership is to develop culture" http://goo.gl/ZoUGl

Kristie said...

That's awesome! I just found you and I'm so glad I did! I have been thinking about how to help teenagers as well. I'm an elementary school teacher turned teacher consultant turned stay at home mom/ blogger/entrepreneur. I'm a total self development junkie! ;) I think you're in Texas, right? I live in San Antonio. I would love to help the cause! Maybe there's something I could work on with you.