• Why is engagement so important with young people?

    Similar to adults, when young people are part of planning for their future, they are far more likely to pursue those goals. Engagement is the highest form of motivation, regardless of age. That is because the goals are relevant to the young person. Without relevance, no one can maintain motivation.

    When people are disengaged, then their leaders resort to coercion to gain compliance. Coercion is the lowest form of motivation that inhibits extra effort and creativity. 

  • What is the best way to engage an adolescent?

    As adolescents form the neural pathways in their brains they have a difficult time recognizing how to interpret crisis. The result is they can often seem melodramatic to others, but not to themselves. Don’t wait for a crisis to blow over, in fact, during a crisis may be the best time to approach a young person. They key is, don’t ask "why" they are having a hard time. The best time to talk with a young person is when you can set other things aside to focus on their emotions. 

    Just simply name the emotion they seem to be displaying. "You sound _____ (and name the emotion)." Encourage them to continue talking or to further elaborate on what they are feeling. If you interpreted it wrong (if you are having a hard time understanding their emotions, they’re having an even harder time). The primary key for engaging an adolescence is naming the emotion, not making recommendations or advising them. Similar to adults, most teens want to be understood more than they want to be counseled. 

  • Why is Values Based Decision Making so important?

    Maturity is the ability to make decisions based upon values rather than the immediate circumstance or the opinions of peers. Since peer approval is very important to an adolescent (and they get pleasure from taking risks in front of peers) they are susceptible to manipulation. Being able to articulate one’s values and use them as a source of decision-making can literally be a lifesaver for an adolescent.

  • How do young people grow their values?

    Young people grow their values by naming them and then sharing them. It can be very difficult for an adolescent to follow their values—especially if it is contradictory to what their peers are doing or thinking. When young people practice stating their values in a safe place, it gives them the courage to begin sharing them in less safe circumstances. 

  • What are the primary tasks of adolescence?

    Most neuroscientists believe that because the adolescent brain is going through a huge growth spurt in its white matter (neural pathways that predominantly connect emotions and actions) the most important tasks are 1) Values-Based Decision Making, 2) Impulse Control, and 3) Building Social Capital.

  • What is Impulse Control?

    Impulse control is the ability to delay gratification, to put off short-term wants for long-term gains. 

  • How do you build Impulse Control?

    The primary method of building Impulse Control is through a technique called "Scaffolding." This begins with identifying goals that the young person wants to master and helping them to succeed (or even fail in a loving environment) in pursuit of these goals. As they experience success in small things, their confidence begins to grow and they will pursue larger goals. If they experience failure in a supportive environment, they will begin to accept that risk as part of growth which leads to resilience. This is primarily the difference between "feeling good," and "doing well." The efforts of many institutions and parents to help young people feel good (self-esteem) usually backfires. No one feels good about themselves if they are not doing well.

  • What is Social Capital?

    Social Capital is a network of people who will help the adolescent grow. Every healthy parent (or parenting system, like a school, church or social services) wants children to be able to make values-based decisions, control their impulses and seek help when it is needed. The first thing a manipulative person or system does is make their victim more isolated and dependent.

  • How do you grow Social Capital?

    Growing Social Capital is very similar to growing impulse control. Have a young person identify a multitude of areas they want to master and then build relationships with people in the community or world that have mastered those areas. Don’t just focus on the career aspect as that will lead to an unhealthy balance in life and eventual burnout. A Compelling Life protocol focuses on seven areas of balance in life with career being only one. 

  • What is an Influential Life?

    An influential life is a life full of meaning, purpose and compassion. Our society predominantly focuses on pushing kids to achieve career or material success, often at the expense of well-being or relationships. Influence is not a rejection of material success—indeed all successful people have to be influential—but not all influential people have chosen to be materially successful. Influential people build a compelling vision and create a network around it. They spend more time planning who they are going to motivate rather than what they are going to do.

  • How do you build an influential life?

    The first step to influence is to be compelling; to draw people to yourself or your vision. Dignity is every human’s right, but being compelling is our personal responsibility. A secret of being compelling is that if you want to be interesting to people, you must be interested in people. 


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