Helping teens become confident and capable

This week our staff and parents were fortunate to attend presentations by Dr Judith Locke on Helping Teens to become Confident and Capable. Judith is the author of two very good books for parents, The Bonsai Child and The Bonsai Student. Both books address the psychology behind students in their teenage and formative years and how the role of a parent influences this development.

Judith walked us through the journey of the adolescent, and some of the implications and risks of overparenting. She reflects that in an era where parents put more time and effort in to raising their children than ever before, the research shows significant drops in self-esteem, resilience, and wellbeing.

Judith provided several strategies for managing our relationships with teens, including a few that were certainly confronting. For example, Judith believes that an 18-year-old should be completing 100% of the adult allocation of household chores. This, when extrapolated backwards, she suggests, means that a nine-year-old should be completing 25% of an adult load, and a 13-year-old, 50%. She did caution that suddenly announcing to your teen that they were now expected to do a significant load within the family is not recommended, but also reported that there is a close relationship between future success and resilience and the work done by a child in the home in their teenage years. Definitely food for thought.

Most of us as parents consider that our role is to protect our children from stress or challenging situations wherever possible. This, Judith warns, is the reason students are less able to manage the challenges of normal life later on. She speaks at length on age-appropriate challenges for children, and the unequalled value of facing the consequences of a missed deadline because of disorganisation, receiving a low grade despite trying hard in a task (potentially spending too much time on elements in a task which are not assessed), and managing their own friendship group issues.

As the mother of three myself, listening to the advice and tips provided by Judith, with some fabulous examples from both her teaching and her clinical psychologist backgrounds, made a lot of sense. I recommend her books and her insight into living with and growing great teens.

Ms Joanna Leaman

Acting Deputy Principal (Head of Senior School)


Dr Judith Locke presenting to Senior School parents