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How capable is your son? What is his potential? These are hard questions to answer, especially during his high school years. Certainly a teenage boy has not yet realised his full potential.

Like most parents, you want to set high expectations for your son but how do you know what is realistic? And how do you ensure that you’re not aiming too low?

Here’s how to set high expectations for your teenage son.

 Get involved with his school activities

Believe it or not, most boys do actually want to do well at school and make you and their teachers proud. To truly understand what your son is capable of at this point in his life, you need a solid understanding of his school life. Is he making friends? Is there a subject that he struggles with and why is that? Is it an issue with the subject, the teacher or peers in the class? Communicate with his teachers on a regular basis and talk to your son each day about how his day went. This will help you to gauge what kind of expectations and goals to set for him.

Expect great things but praise his efforts

We have previously written about the importance of developing a growth mindset over a fixed mindset. This is a crucial companion to having high expectations of your son. The last thing you want is your son feel so disappointed that he didn’t meet your expectations, that he gives up. Praising his efforts rather than his achievements will encourage him to carry on and keep his aims high.

Help him with goal-setting

Everyone has heard of SMART goals but not everyone uses them. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time framed objectives which enable us to evaluate performance. Or better still use a combination of SMART and DUMB goals to let your son dream big and aim for those large, scary goals. 

Give him positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can simply be a subtle gesture such as an encouraging smile or look of appreciation. Boys need that. Positive reinforcement from teachers and parents combined with positive reinforcement from peers is necessary to create that self-respect that is so important for boys. They need to know they are on the right track, that they have achieved and are appreciated. They need to know that you are proud of them and that they can be proud of themselves. 

Be a great role model

As teachers and parents we are in an ideal position to act as positive role models. Your son looks up to you – although it might not feel like it sometimes – watching and analysing your every move. Set high expectations of yourself and make sure he is aware of how you approach achieving your own goals. In addition, positive reinforcement from a positive role model is a very powerful character shaping force.


Boys crave respect. Respect from positive role models and peers, and most importantly self-respect. We must avoid having preconceived ideas of what an individual boy can achieve. Set the bar high, give encouragement and marvel at what can be achieved when your son is motivated.

Find out how your son could benefit from the Scots Advantage and download your copy of Brave Hearts Bold Minds.

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