Does Your Teenager Have a “System”?

The concept of defining and refining a System is something I regularly stressed with my girls during their high school and college years.  We discovered that each of our three daughters had different methods for planning, organizing, studying, remembering and deciding.  What works well for me and my wife didn’t necessarily work at all work for a given daughter.  One of the most important things we wanted to help them accomplish during their high school and college years was to develop and refine a system that worked well for them.

If our kid bombed a test that they studied reasonably hard for, we would take a look at the system they used to prepare for the test.  For example:

  • Did they study with headphones on or in a quiet room?
  • Did they study alone or together with classmates?
  • Did they take good notes during class?  Were they good notes for studying later?
  • Did they review all of their notes and completed homework assignments or simply rely on the review given by the instructor?
  • Had they figured out how that particular instructor tested as compared to their lectures and assignments?
  • Did they forget about the test until late the night before?

You get the idea.  And, by the way, I’m not down on headphones during studying if that creates an environment that produces results.  The focus in this case is on the test preparation system.

A Framework to Consider

Here are some questions to consider asking your kid to help them understand what their system is for a given task or goal, and what other possibilities exist that could be better:

  • How did you go about _______? (ie – studying for that test)
  • What tools did you use?
  • What methods did you use?
  • Were you clear on the goals/expectations ahead of time?  If not, why not and what could you do differently next time?
  • Did you try/do something that you don’t normally do?
  • How do your others you know that are successful at this go about ______?  Are they doing anything differently that seems to work for them?


This works for organizational systems that are hugely needed when your kid has to juggle school, org/sports participation, and a job.  It also works for budgeting and general money management as the child grows into a young adult.  The key is for them to be aware that systems exist and to try different things until they conclude their systems for various things are best optimized for them.

See my other blog posts on parenting here.

Author: Gordon Daugherty

Gordon Daugherty is a best-selling author, seasoned business executive, entrepreneur, startup advisor and investor. He has made more than 200 investments in early-stage companies and has been involved with raising more than $80 million in growth and venture capital. From his 28-year career in high tech, Gordon has both an IPO and a $200-million acquisition exit under his belt. Now, as co-founder and president of Austin’s Capital Factory and as author of the book “Startup Success”, Gordon spends 100 percent of his time educating, advising, and investing in startups.

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