What is the best advice your parents ever gave you?

mentors.jpgEvery time I do a speaking engagement for teens, I ask the audience two questions:

“What is the best advice you have ever gotten?”

“What is the best advice your parents ever gave you?”

The first question usually gets loads of comments and stories. The second question…crickets. Seriously, I usually have to follow it with: “Do you remember any advice at all that your parents have given you?” One teen responded, “he told me not to listen to his advice.”

When does the kid-like insatiable curiosity turn into the teen-like surly, unresponsive, closed off wall. Somewhere around the age of 11, spongy kids learn to selectively soak.

Many parents think that teens are unreachable for a few years, like they just turn off completely, I argue that teens do hear advice and information—just not from everyone, and the reactions I get to the questions above prove it.

I like to call the way teens only listen to certain people: selective soaking or the rolly-polly bug syndrome. You know those bugs that when you touch them they roll into a little ball. Well, they do not close up to people of their own kind, they only close off to scary humans.

I think it is the same way for me, especially when I was 12-16. I had certain mentors or people I admired in my life when I was a teenager and I vividly remember everything about them—their advice, their voice tone, the way they dressed. Yet, I only remember fighting with my parents.
The point of this post is two-fold.

• Parents should not feel bad if their teen doesn’t talk to them, it happens, it is a stage, usually, we come out of it.
• Mentors are really, really important.

I think it is so important for teens to have someone who is not a parent or immediate family member to bond with. If they are not going to listen to you, they need to find someone of their own kind (other rolly polly bugs) to talk to, because teens do listen to these people. As parents, I think you need to make sure it is with someone who will tell them positive things.

The best mentors are people who are a little bit older and can take teens to get some coffee, do activities with, but is not so much older that they are out of touch (scary human). They should preferably be local so they can spend in-person time together.

Some Ideas for Mentors:
-Other family members like cousins, aunts, uncles
-Older Friend at school (maybe someone on their sports team)
-Tutor (music tutor, arts teacher, subject tutor, organizational tutor…)
-Coach or teacher
-Religious Figure like a priest, rabbi or youth group leader

For parents, please do think about who your kid can talk to if they do not feel comfortable talking to you. For teens, think about who you look up to and tell them, maybe ask them to be your mentor.

I would love to hear from you guys about the mentors in your lives and the best piece of advice they gave you. For me, it was a cooking teacher I had (I used to take cooking classes all the time) who taught me about eating healthy, taking care of my body and exercising. He told me that I should always listen to my body. That my intuition knows the right answer and if I listen to my body I will always eat right, act right and live right.

As far as my parents go, the best piece of advice they ever gave me is how I always sign out my posts!

Dream big, work hard and you will get there.


No Responses to “What is the best advice your parents ever gave you?”

  1. PJK
    December 20, 2007 at 9:04 am #

    Great post! I like the sponge and rolly-polly analogies. Mentors are a great idea, but do you think maybe teens won’t like it if the parents seem to set it up as a mentor thing? When I was a teen, I don’t think I would have liked the term “mentor” being applied to people who, in retrospect, were exactly that.

  2. Vanessa Van Petten
    December 20, 2007 at 9:17 am #

    That is a really good point! thank you for bringing it up, yes i think that encouraging relationships with the people i mentioned in the examples above can be good because teens can develop the relationship naturally, I mean I had a few coaches who I just didn’t click with but i really got along with some of my babysitters and my dance teacher, so yes agreed, encourage relationships to develop naturally.

  3. MaryP
    December 20, 2007 at 9:40 am #

    This is a really nice post, I think the best piece of advice I ever got from my parents was: If you are trying your hardest, then it doesn’t matter the outcome, because you know you put your all into it.

  4. Skylar
    December 20, 2007 at 9:42 am #

    Hmmm, good question! I think the best advice I got was to find the silver lining, kinda cliched, but my dad was always saying “well, what can you learn from this?” then every failure, was positive because I made sure I was learning something to better next time.

    Thanks for this!

  5. Annie
    June 11, 2008 at 4:38 am #

    Vanesa, I have been reading your blog for about a month now and find you have some great ideas. I have a tween daughter who is just now beginning to close up and we are wondering if it’s possible to reverse the process before it goes too far. Any suggestions for keeping the lines of communication open? Or do we just have to wait out this stage?
    Thanks for all your insight, and keep up the good work!

  6. Vanessa
    June 13, 2008 at 1:28 pm #

    Hi Annie

    This is a critical time! Be sure to check out my bonding activities for teens in my favorite posts link. I think doing as many activities with them as possible and getting in the habit of doing family dinners, vacations and traditions while they are still young is key.
    Thanks for reading!

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