Your Teen's Intentionality: Living a Life of Purpose

Hone the skills that will launch your teen into their life's passion

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With regard to human development, intentionality refers to the ability to act with purpose. In other words, intentionality means behaving with a goal in mind and taking deliberate actions to reach that goal. An intentional individual wants to make a difference in their environment in some way, shape or form, and has the self-control to take persistent action toward that desire.

Developing Intentionality

Intentionality typically develops prior to the tween years, but some tweens remain in the process of developing intentionality and self-control.

In order to develop intentionality, a person must believe in his own competence, which can be promoted through supportive parenting. By standing alongside your teen, rather than doing things for them, you can teach them how to handle their goals and passion without overstepping. Here are 5 ways to develop intentionality in your tween:

  1. Give them time alone and don't tell them what to do during that time. Children need time to flesh out their thoughts without constant input from others. Allow them scheduled or free time each day to work it all out in their heads.
  2. Set expectations and boundaries, and respond with consequences when a boundary is broken, and rewards when an expectation is exceeded.
  3. Allow them to fail. Your child needs to know how to self-correct and the only way he can do that is if he fails at a task. By re-directing his energy to complete the task the correct way, your tween learns perseverance and stick-to-it iveness.
  1. Encourage positive self-talk. Your child may not be able to control his thoughts, but as you teach them to through your own encouragement you can help them speak to negative thoughts with positive ones. This too creates perseverance and allows a tween not to get too down on himself.
  2. Be present. Don't mention what your child has done in the past any more than you mention what your child wishes to do in the future. Appreciate the moment and your child will learn to do the same. By not looking back for evidence of his or her ability, they can forge ahead without doubts.

    Intentionality and Learning How to Learn

    Intentionality is considered to be one of the key elements of knowing how to learn; it is therefore important for academic success. Without the ability to set goals, time limits, and developing the discipline to see tasks through to the end regardless of how hard they may become is an essential part of learning. Through teaching intentionality, you also teach entrepreneurship and self-reliance. These skills translate into allowing your teen or tween to apply his ability to learn to his ability to create. By focusing in on a task, your tween is better able to articulate and gather his thoughts surrounding something his passionate about. One of the benchmarks of owning business and being successful career-wise is goal-setting, negotiation, and follow-up. All three of these are built through teaching intentionality.

    Related terms: Autonomy


    Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. 2006. New York: Bantam.

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