But your adolescent can have a better experience.Â Your adolescent’s summer can be the time the two of you focus on building a foundation for their successful life.Â Plan on taking some time with your adolescent to talk about what they want for their lives and how to get it.
Researchers who have studied the process needed for adolescents to build successful lives have summarized their findings with the words “selection, optimization, and commitment” or SOC for short (Gestsdottir & Lerner, 2008).
- Selection: The adolescent selects goals that are appropriate and achievable.
- Optimization: The adolescent makes a “how-to” plan by thinking through resources available and resources needed.
- Commitment: The adolescent is able to keep on going for the goal when the planned strategy does not work.
Successful Life Strategies Require Selecting Goals
The mother in the picture above is using the opportunity of her daughter’s web search to talk about what her adolescent wants in life.Â As she passed her daughter in the living room, she noticed that her daughter had her “Pinterest” account open, showing a shiny, blue Hyundai Elantra.
Mother: “Oh, my, Jesse, you have great taste in cars!”
Jessica: “Hi, Mom!Â Yes, this is the car I want to buy when I get my license next month.”
Mother: “Oh, so you are planning on buying a car?Â Have you thought about how to do that?”
Successful Life Strategies Require a “How-To” Plan
Jessica originally had thought that her parents might buy her the car for her birthday.Â She was a little disappointed to hear that mom and dad had no plans for such an expensive, elaborate gift. Further, if she wants to drive, she will have to have car insurance–which must be paid monthly. This seems pretty overwhelming, but Jessica is a girl who is willing to work for what she wants.
Jessica: “So, mom, how much would it cost to buy this kind of car?”
Mother: “I was wondering the same thing. And of course, you would have to consider more than just the cost of the car.Â There would be an initial fee for the license plate and property taxes. There would also be a monthly bill for auto insurance. And fuel for the car–you would need to be able to pay for the gas to take that car wherever you want to take it. ”
Jessica: “It sounds like I would need a job.Â But I also need to keep up my grades at school. How can I do both?”
Mother: “I like how you are thinking.Â Have you thought about the information you might need to figure that out?”
Jesse: “I need a lot of information. First, I need an idea about how much it will cost each month to have the car.Â Then I will have to figure out how many hours I would need to work each month to make that kind of money.”
Mother: “You are right on target!Â And most important, you might look at whether you would be able to spend that amount of time working and still make good grades and spend some time with your friends.”
Successful Life Strategies Require Commitment
Jessica figured out that she would have to work about 15 hours a week to afford a two-year old version of her dream car.Â She would need to pay $1,000 down–and she only had $300 in her savings account.Â She also did not have a job. She could see that it was possible to get that car and fill her obligations at a job and school–but it might not leave enough time to have fun with her friends. Still, if she had a car, she could drive herself to school. It would also signal important people in her life that she was growing up and becoming independent. This would be especially true if she had a part-time job.
Jessica:Â “Mom, if I got the car, I might not have the time I need to hang out with friends. I would be working all the time that I am not studying or going to school.Â But I still want to get my own car and have a job.Â So maybe I need a less expensive car. How do I go about making this happen?”
Mother:Â “Jesse, you are showing good problem-solving skills.Â But I need to admit, I certainly don’t know much about buying cars at an affordable price.Â Do you know anyone who might have some ideas. . .”
The Positive Outcomes
Jessica, of course, was very happy when she drove a used car home from the auction lot (which was a plan she made after consulting with her dad). She enjoyed showing her car off to her friends. She even enjoyed working 8 hours a week at a local burger joint.
But best of all–she had learned that she is a “get-it-done” kind of girl.Â She can organize her behaviors to get what she wants in life and to be the kind of person she wants to be. She enjoyed holding the mature-looking car keys in her hand.Â But she also had the kind of keys to turn her behaviors toward creating the kind of life and lifestyle of her choosing.Â She like those keys best of all.
Gestsdottir, S., & Lerner, R. M. (2008). Positive development in adolescence: The development and role of intentional self-regulation.Â Human Development,Â 51, 202-224. doi: 10.1159/000135757