Competence is the ability to perform adequately in the world. It means being able to accomplish what is needed so as to have effective interactions with other people and social institutions. Someone who is competent knows how to make things work out for him. Like a chain reaction, the more competence a person has, the more competently he acts. This hones their skills and leads them to be more competent. Teens may demonstrate competence in the following six arenas: academically, cognitively, socially, emotionally, vocationally, and spiritually. Each of these areas encompasses many more qualities than you may probably realize.
Why is competence in these areas so important? A better question might be, “What happens to teens who do not become competent?” They tend to not function independently but remain attached to their parents, who worry about them constantly. They often turn out to be followers, easily manipulated by charismatic individuals who have their own agendas.
To understand how to nurture and enhance competence in all these areas, it’s first important to understand the roots of competence. A desire to learn things or accomplish tasks for their own value, or intrinsic motivation, is very compelling. Parents can use it to enhance their teens’ overall competence. Extrinsic motivation, working for an external reward, such as money or a good grade, is short lived. Once the reward is earned the motivation often disappears.
The first step is to carefully observe those activities your teen naturally gravitates toward. Remain objective about this, noticing what he likes not what you wish he would like and support his interest in it. Support his interest without taking it over or compromising your standards. Learn to praise and criticize productively.
Take a strength-based approached. This means help her enhance the skills she has and develop new skills when your teen asks for help or is amenable to hearing your suggestions. Suggest your teen learn to break down big jobs into smaller more manageable components. Help your teen see that the competence she brings to the tasks she enjoys can be generalized to other important facets of life.
Actively involve your teen in making decisions important to the completion of the task. Turn mistakes into teachable moments.