(This feature is based upon a Core Connectivity parent workshop on setting your teen up for success. To book a workshop at your school or church, contact Joanna).

Defining success for yourself and your teen is probably one of the most important things that a parent and child can learn how to do together.

And I do mean learn together.

This is not something that comes naturally because we are all receiving so much input from the world – our family, friends and the broader cultural influences that can shape our sense of belonging and worth in the world.

Ultimately, the most important thing you and your teen need to learn together is to accept that every human being is the same, regardless of status, income, or education level in that we are all seeking to fulfill one spiritual imperative: to belong, or “to get got” in a secure way.  And yet the signals we give one another can create a barrier to feeling connected, and create an illusion that there is a separation when there is not. Often this separation is our definition of failure that clouds our perception of success.

Steps to connect with teens about their success:

  • Examine the issues impacting how teens perceive and define their own success
  • Clarify the parent role to impart wisdom
  • Revisit your definition of success for you as the parent and your teen

Examine how you and your teen perceive and define success

Your child and you are navigating your own path of success in life. At the core, is the fundamental imperative to prosper – which is to be well; or related to being well. Some additional ways in which we define success are:

  • the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
  • the attainment of popularity or profit
  • a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity

Some other factors that help us define success include:

  • Achievements
  • Education
  • Meeting goals and objectives
  • Trustworthy character
  • Spiritual fulfillment (inner peace/empowered)
  • Income
  • Acquisitions

How would you rate these indicators of success above?

How would your teen rate them?

So the big question for us and our teens is: who is defining success for you? This is a question that every person must ask himself, or else we are living someone else’s life. But first let’s consider what we mean by success as parents and our role in helping our teens find their own success.

First, examine these success factors above and rate them as a parent. What order would you prioritize them on behalf of your child? For example, I might rate trustworthy character as the top priority and acquisitions as the last category. Another parent might perceive that education is the most important thing and spiritual fulfillment as the least important. The prioritization is not saying that any of these things are not important, it is just how you perceive success for your child in this season of your parenthood.

Then consider how you measure your own success as a parent. Consider these success factors below and rate pick the top three to five items that resonate the most for you.

  • My child is well-behaved
  • My child is healthy
  • My child likes me
  • My child respects me
  • My child talks to me and listens to me
  • My child thinks for him or herself
  • My child does well in school.
  • My child is popular, well-liked (accepted in their peer community)
  • My child is college-bound
  • My child is learning how to put their own talents and passions to do good
  • My child is trustworthy
  • My child accepts responsibility for his/her own thoughts and actions
  • My child demonstrates good judgment
  • My child is kind and honest

Secondly, let’s consider how teens perceive and define success given their issues. Teens today are growing up in a cyber-powered world that hypes fear and anxiety to extreme levels. Below are some of the lies that can become reinforced as truth when a cyber-powered peer community becomes a single point of reference for life:

  • I am not loveable unless I send a nude photo of myself.
  • The number of “likes” I get in reply to my post validates me.
  • I am invisible without a profile on Instagram, Twitter or SnapChat.
  • I cannot fit in or stop the pain without drugs and alcohol.
  • The voice behind the stranger’s photo cares about me
  • Alcohol is safe as long as you don’t get behind the wheel.
  • I have no future, no hope. There is no point in going on living.


Ultimately, the experience of success is tied to the spiritual imperative to belong – to “get got” in a secure way, in family, community and society. Below are some of the concerns for fitting in that impact your teen’s perception of being a successful member of their community in the present moment:

Friends – who are my friends and how many do I need to be fulfilled? Who has excluded me and who has included me? How do I fit in?

Grades – how do grades reflect my worth and status as a student and reflect my intelligence, potential and acceptance at home?

Sex – am I appealing and attractive? Am I desirable? Have I proven myself to be powerful? How do I respond to requests for nude photos? Why do I need to request nude photos? Is this normal to focus on sex and sexual acts?

Drugs and alcohol – I need medication to stop the pain and it is easy to access; I can “Google” anything I think I need to know about medications and order them on-line; partying with drugs and alcohol is a great release of stress and pressure, everybody does it. If I do not use drugs and alcohol, does that make me an “outsider”?

Career goals – everything I do in high school will determine the rest of my life; how can I know what I want to do in life; I want to make my parents proud and please them but I fear that my interests and desires will not meet their expectations.

Clarify your role as the parent to help define and pursue success

One of the most important things parents need to consider for the modern teen is how they are conditioned for authority and relationships. The network culture has inspired a perception of authority as a relational experience, less as a matter of formal authority and title. Below are some of the characteristics of the “digital native”, born after 1990, who cannot imagine a world without mobile connectivity:

  • Perceive authority as a relational experience – it is how they feel loved
  • Cyber-powered “friend” communities
  • Texting main artery of communication
  • Seek authenticity
  • Attention is premium
  • Trust is the currency

(This archetype of the digital native above was compiled from personal experience, fieldwork and research. For more information see, The Authority In Me, and Fresh Start.)

Wisdom versus your opinion. So your teen values trust above all things and fears judgment (which is hyped in their social networks and casts them out of ‘belonging’ or being well) and the most important thing a parent can do is position him or herself as a trusted resource so you can impart your wisdom. The only way to do this is to be mindful of the difference between your opinion and wisdom, especially when it comes to the areas of concern about friends, sex, drugs, grades and career goals.

Especially with these topics above your opinion is not the same thing as wisdom.

Your opinion is predicated upon limited human understanding, and contains judgements which harbor a desire to be in control and/or condemn a person or situation. Some criteria for success that involve more opinions and less wisdom include:

  • Other people’s beliefs and behavior
  • What other people think about my child
  • What other people think about me as a parent
  • Number of likes to my posts
  • Number of followers in my network
  • Pleasing a love interest
  • Being desired by the opposite sex
  • My child’s performance in school is my achievement

Wisdom, on the other hand, is predicated on eternal thoughts that bring about peace and empower others. Wisdom enables us to redirect and correct ourselves and our youth without condemnation. Some criteria for success that involve more wisdom and less opinion include:

Self-governance –taking responsibility for your own thoughts and actions; not being overly influenced by peers and popular culture

Discipline – house rules that reflect capacity for self-control defined by the characteristics of a trustworthy person, including honesty, kindness, good work ethic, reliable, courtesy, compassion and empathy.

Good works – sets goals and objectives for self and others that make the world a better place.

Revisit your criteria for success as the parent and for your teen

After reviewing these concepts about defining success and judgments about success factors, re-evaluate your priorities that influence how you guide your teen to be more hopeful and confident.

When your aim is to focus on the success factors that feature more wisdom and less opinion, you are indeed developing the resilience essential to succeed in a life in a cyber-powered world that features change, uncertainty and emotion.


About:  We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).

Joanna Jullien, Founder & CEO of Core Connectivity
Photo by: Victoria Hatch

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.