Taking on New Challenges
One of the most difficult — and necessary — parts of parenting a teenager is that you must be prepared to allow your child to risk making mistakes and failure. Of course you will still provide support and assistance, and you will try to exercise good judgment as to how much responsibility to take on; but you have to avoid the tendency to continue to do work for your child or intervene constantly on his behalf. At age eight, it is unfair to a child with dyslexia to expect him to “tough it out” and simply “work harder” — but at age fourteen it is important that the child begin to develop some of the work habits he will need to succeed in life.
Adolescence is a time of extraordinary mental and intellectual growth for your child. With dyslexia, there is often a pattern of “late blooming” — it is very typical for a child who has struggled tremendously in the early years to suddenly develop new competencies during the teenage years; a child whose parents were told that he would never be “college material” may end up excelling in high school and later go on to earn a Ph.D.
As a parent, you love your child and want the best for her, but there is a natural tendency to see your child in the light of your previous experience. If she has always needed extra help to keep up in school, it is hard for you to believe that she is going to suddenly change and become an honors student. Your daughter may want to enroll in an honors or college preparatory class at school such that you feel, in your heart, is too difficult for her; you don't want to see her hurt, so it is natural for you to try to steer her to something more suited to her abilities. But that is a mistake; you may find to your surprise that the more challenging the course, the better your child does. You can't know that this will be the case, of course — but you can never find out unless you allow your child to try. The fact that your child wants to meet a challenge is usually a good indication that she will be successful. Individuals with dyslexia seem to be blessed with an extra dose of persistence and perseverance, perhaps because their early struggles have conditioned them to expect to work hard to succeed.
Do not push your child to take on challenges that he does not want. The key to your teen's success in meeting new challenges is his own internal motivation. A student with dyslexia with a passionate interest will overcome many odds in pursuit of that passion; parental prodding cannot substitute for that inner drive. Just as you should support your child if he feels ready to work to a higher standard than he has in the past, you must also respect your child if he prefers to choose an easier path.