By Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.

As a teen life coach, one of my primary goals is to help teens cultivate self-awareness. I have observed that when teens know who they are and what is important to them, they become better decision makers, communicators, students, leaders, and friends. In fact, research has proven that self-awareness is an essential life-skill. Dr. Tasha Urich, author of Insight and lead researcher on the topic of self-awareness, points out: people who know themselves and how others see them are happier. They make smarter decisions. They have better personal and professional relationships. They’re smarter, superior students who choose better careers. They’re more creative, more confident, and better communicators. They’re less aggressive and less likely to lie, cheat, and steal…. some research has even shown that self-awareness is the single greatest predictor of leadership success.

You can help your daughter develop her self-awareness by using some of the same approaches I use when I am coaching teens.

Here’s how:

  1. Make Connections. Help your daughter make connections between her actions and her feelings, as well as the outcomes of her choices. Note: as a parent, the last thing your teen wants to hear from you is what you think she feels, so avoid making a judgment. Instead, observe and thoughtfully ask her open-ended questions like, “I noticed you got up really early today. How did that go for you?” or “It looks like you’re missing a few assignments. How are you feeling about that?” When teens begin to link their behaviors with certain results, they gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what matters to them.
  2. Explore What not Why. It’s common for parents and teens to explore their actions and consequences by asking Why questions. While Why questions may help uncover motivation, more often, they lead to self-doubt, criticism, and confusion. Why did I do that? Why am I feeling this way? Why did she say that to me? These questions are often unanswerable or have a multitude of abstract answers.   Help your daughter shift from Why questions to What questions through modeling. Frame your inquiries as What rather than Why. For example, you can ask, What are you feeling? What are you telling yourself right now about that situation? What can you do to get a different result? What is important to you about ____(fill in the blank.)
  3. Look Ahead. Goal setting is one of the most powerful steps toward getting what you want and knowing who you are. Teenagers usually find it easy to come up with what they want for themselves but they struggle with determining action steps and holding themselves accountable for taking action. Encourage your teen to be crystal clear on what she wants for herself, and take a small step each day toward her goal. Talk with her about what it means to be accountable. Where does she holds herself accountable and how? Ask her what support she may need in order to stay accountable. Then, encourage, cheer, and celebrate her small steps and her success.

One of your most important jobs as a parent is to teach your daughter the qualities and skills she will need to be happy, healthy, responsible, and ultimately, independent. Self-awareness is the foundation upon which other life-skills and positive habits develop.

If you’re looking for additional ways to coach your teen, contact me.