Teenagers – what do they know?

by Nicky Benson, leadership coach and facilitator



‘The hardest job of a parent is to let your teenager be who they are not who you think they should be’.

Dan Siegel, “The Teenage Brain”

Aside from being a leadership development coach I am a mother of two teenagers and this experience teaches me as much about leadership as my “professional” life. After being triggered by a bright 19 year old who was really questioning what life is all about, dropped university , become vegan, stopped drinking and started to explore alternative communities. I accepted that my worrying wasn’t creating anything positive!

His message to me ‘stop worrying mum and trust I will be fine ‘.

So, I started to get curious and ask more questions of myself. How might I be contributing to my own anxiety? How limiting was I being in my approach and could I put myself in the shoes of a 19 year old growing up in today’s world?

Rising to the challenge of turning worry down and curiosity up I realised how far I had wandered from meeting some of my own spiritual needs. While I was busy giving, earning, helping others get results, I had invested little time to really reflect on what is important to me and who was I being in relation to my son.

Putting myself into the shoes of this curious young man, I realised I had some pretty stubborn beliefs running through my head ,such as

‘If you start something you persevere until completed’

‘University is a privilege’

‘You are a bright lad and are cutting down your options’

I had been trapped by my own belief system and these rigid expectations needed to be surrendered to enable a different level of conversation.

Instead of dismissing, I too got curious, started to read authors whose work he admired and understand what he had been trying to get me to understand. He is currently experiencing living in a gift economy in Northland and I look forward to an ongoing journey of exploration and love to enable this remarkable young man to make the difference he wants to make in the world and for me to continue to be curious not judgemental, open not closed and to embrace his courage to choose a different path, wherever that may take him.

As leaders there are many times when our own beliefs, judgements and expectations stop us in our tracks. ‘Some ones actions or words trigger a rush of stress hormones and our internal chatter takes over. From this place of judgement and needing to be right we close down our brains and miss the opportunity to learn.

Being curious opens us up as parents and leaders to co-create a different future.


Nicky Benson

Leadership and team coach Nicky Benson has a particular interest  in the risks and rewards of courageous authenticity in leadership and the wider systemic impact it has in workplaces and communities