Ep 1: Talking About Teens’ Future
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Bill Deresiewicz, bestselling author of Excellent Sheep, talks about the conversations he had with students that really had an impact when he was teaching at Yale and Columbia. His advice for how to do this with your own teen involves being non-judgmental.
Full Show Notes
Are there any secrets on how to talk to teens about their future and what they want out of life? And, once you get them to open up, what the heck should you say?
In this episode, Bill Deresiewicz breaks down the art of talking to teenagers about whether they feel they are on the right path or not.
Bill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.
Recognize your teen may view success differently.
What’s important to keep in mind when talking to teenagers, Bill points out, is that success looks very different to different people. Parents should resist the urge to impose their own views of what success means on their teens.
Instead, Bill recommends that parents think of their job as being to help teens discover for themselves what success might look like for them.
He honed these skills over many years as a professor at Yale and Columbia talking with students during his office hours about what they wanted out of life. And he shares some incredibly tips in this episode.
3 Word-for-Word Scripts
1. Encourage your teen to follow their passion
“It’s better to be a successful graphic designer–even if you’re not making a fortune–than an unsuccessful engineer. Because then you’re nowhere and there are going to be lots of other people who are better at engineering than you and you might even find yourself without a job. And then what?”
2. The most important questions to ask any teenager are all variations on the same theme:
3. How to help a teenager who is debating about whether or not to try something:
Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview
1. Ask Your Teen About What they Really Want in Life:
One of the experiences that ultimately led Bill to leave his position as an Ivy League professor and write Excellent Sheep was talking to these elite students during his office hours and seeing how directionless many were. Over the years he developed a knack for asking the right questions at the right times. According to Bill, every question he ever asked that really had an impact on a kid was some variation of “what do you want?” or “are you doing what you want?” or “are you getting what you want out of college?” Try to start asking your teenager variations of this question as often as possible. On a piece of paper, jot down 5-10 different questions you could ask your teen that would get them thinking about what they want in life. Try to ask all of them over the next 2 weeks! Some other examples that Bill gives during his interview are: “What do you enjoy studying?” “What do you wish you could study?” “If something seems to be missing here in your college experience what do you think that is?” When you ask your teenager these questions, try to help them explore without imposing an answer on them.
About Bill Dereziewicz
After spending the first half of his career as an English professor at some of the most prestigious universities in America, Bill left academia in 2008 to become a full-time writer. He met fast success with his first book, A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter.
Bill’s second book, Excellent Sheep, examines the ways in which the most prestigious universities in America fail to prepare students to find meaningful and fulfilling careers after they graduate.
He argues that we may be raising a generation of kids who are incredibly good at doing what is asked of them but who often lack to ability to decide what they want for themselves.
Essays written by Bill have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The Nation, and The New Republic.
He was awarded the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, the Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and a Sydney Award. He has also been nominated for a National Magazine Award three times.
His work has been translated into at least 15 languages and anthologized in more than 30 college readers. He has spoken at over 70 colleges, high schools, and educational groups and has held visiting positions at Bard, Scripps, and Claremont McKenna Colleges.