When Morgan Oliver turned 16 two years ago she couldn't figure out what was wrong.

The Napier teen grew up in a ­happy, ­stable home and should have been ­having the time of her life - but instead she was riddled with anxiety.

She was being bullied by her peers; having relationship dramas on a daily basis and felt alone and directionless.

"I just wasn't myself but I didn't know what was up," she says.

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"I was really unhappy and quiet, and I was letting life get to me.

"It was a really difficult time for my mum too as she was aware of my ­behaviour but there was nothing we could seem to do about it."

That was when her mother, Tina, sent her on a self-improvement course for youths because she thought an outside ­influence might help.

Within a year, Morgan's circum­stances and attitude had changed ­significantly.

Instead of fretting endlessly about her future she is now a focused and ­happy young adult.

"One of the first things I learned was how to set myself some achievable goals and all of them have happened," Morgan says.

She now has a part time job, her driver licence and is at college ­studying trade and tourism.

"At first I didn't want to be sent on any course for teenagers because I thought it would be like a boot camp. Instead, it has turned out to be just the confidence boost I needed."

The youth empowerment course Morgan attended in Auckland is called Making It On My Own. It is run by straight-talking parenting expert and author Yvonne Godfrey.

Godfrey was a host parent on ­Australia's The World's Strictest ­Parents reality TV show and she speaks at schools and conferences all over New Zealand.

To complement her four-day ­motivational programmes, the 61-year-old breast cancer survivor and grandmother of two has just launched a new book aimed at 16-24-year-olds called Making It On My Own: 52 smart ways to smash it in the real world.

It's a "get real" guide to independence for young adults that aims to give the latest generation a short, sharp lesson in financial, physical and emotional ­independence.

In her previous book, Parenting Yadults, Godfrey tells carers they, too, need to take a long, hard look at their parenting.

Parenting guide author Yvonne Godfrey. Photo / Supplied
Parenting guide author Yvonne Godfrey. Photo / Supplied

She believes if kids are over indulged, they become co-dependent and lazy offspring who will never learn to act ­responsibly and fly the nest ­successfully.

Many parents are compensating for their children, causing them to be "soft" and develop an attitude of entitlement, she says.

"These parents have become unpaid servants and bankers to their children."

Making It On My Own asks youth to start thinking, speaking and acting like adults. Godfrey also asks schools to be aware of what part they might be playing in holding pupils back from taking full responsibility.

"While yadults are holding their parents hostage, parents are holding schools hostage in a worrying PC-­sensitive triangle.

"Schools and parents need to find ways to work together for the common good of their emerging adults to prevent divisive behaviour.

Parents have become ­unpaid ­servants and ­bankers to their ­children. Kids need to step up and parents need to step aside.

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"People also need to stop ­micro-managing their kids. Kids need to step up and parents need to step aside.

"If teenagers want to leave home and make it on their own, I'm simply here to show them how to do this successfully."

Today's young people are often regarded as being more materialistic and less likely to work and study hard than any generation in
history.

But the Baby Boomers before them were considered spoiled and self-­absorbed. Then came Generation X, who were thought to have so little interest in working hard they were called "slackers".

Now it's the millennials' turn.

The youngest generation of Kiwi workers is entering the workplace amid accusations they are self-centred, ­unable to take criticism and unschooled in the art of working hard.

However, despite these concerns, this is not always the fault of "soft parenting", says psychologist Marc Wilson, from Wellington's Victoria University.

"The world in which young people grow up is constantly changing, and probably more quickly than ever before," he says. "At the same time, the developmental challenges that young people face are the same - working out who they are, their place in the world, and how to function as an individual.

Morgan Oliver (right) and her mother Tina. Photo / Warren Buckland
Morgan Oliver (right) and her mother Tina. Photo / Warren Buckland

"Parents are and always have been a vital part of this. They are role models, as well as facilitators."

Parenting is a balancing act, he says.

"You want to give your kids the chance to dirty their knees without risking their lives, to ­experience both the ups and downs of life so as to be able to manage them when they're adults."

Wilson's recipe for making the world a better place is simple: "If you have ­children, try to have a family routine that has some things that happen ­regularly.

"Time together and time doing life together like sharing the dishwashing ­duties, eating together at the table without screens or phones. Ask your family how their days were, and let them tell you."

Johny O'Donnell is another successful graduate from ­Godfrey's self-improvement programme.

He is 23, happily married and runs his own business consultancy in Motueka, near Nelson. He has clients as far afield as Sydney, London and Barcelona.

O'Donnell left school at 16 to pursue unrealistic dreams of spending his days volunteering in the community. "I was bored and because I was doing a lot of community work I became disengaged in the school system," he says.

"But when I left school I realised it wasn't viable to be a volunteer full-time and I needed a job and some cash. I was lost and had no idea what to do. I was in a tailspin and going nowhere fast."

As a last resort his frustrated solo mother, Elle, sent him on the Making It On My Own course. At first he was so reluctant to go, he hid under a table at home and refused to budge.

I went from someone with zero ­confidence or self-belief to a person who could rock right up to a potential employer and shake hands with the manager.

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"It turned out the programme is one of the best things to have happened to me," he says. "The benefits have been enormous and I'm still in contact with some of the great mentors and speakers I was introduced to.

"I went from someone with zero ­confidence or self-belief to a person who could rock right up to a potential employer and shake hands with the manager."

His mum does not regard sending her son on a self-empowerment course as any kind of slight on her own parenting.

"Johny is a bright boy but he was ­disillusioned and needed some proper direction," she says. "Teenagers often don't want to listen to their ­parents ­anyway so getting advice from an outside source has worked well for him."

James Beck from The Parenting Place. Photo / Supplied
James Beck from The Parenting Place. Photo / Supplied
J

ames Beck, national attitude manager at The Parenting Place in Auckland, thinks an element in Godfrey's ­success is her no-nonsense approach, coupled with treating teens as young adults, not kids.

"She packages it well. It's like old-school wisdom without the false teeth," he says.
Beck believes part of the problem with parenting today's youth is they have different expectations to the ­previous generation.

"The Baby Boomers regarded success as owning lots of stuff," he says.

"But the millennials are significantly less likely to judge people by what they have accumulated. They now see success as being someone who is ­'authentically' happy. And they will pursue this ­happiness at the expense of everything else."

They still want some of the things their ­parents have but realise they also need money and a job they enjoy, he says.

But that "takes an ­awful lot of work that they don't ­necessarily really want to do".
"It is all very well having your mates see you as a success because you are good at computer games or operating digital technology but you can't get a job based on your XBox achievements."

Back in Napier, Morgan Oliver's mother, Tina, is happy she and her husband sent both kids on the self-empowerment workshops - which cost about $995 each.

"Instead of seeing this as a failure on my part as a parent, I feel we have done the kids a favour by giving them a new toolbox for life," she says.

"A lot of what they got taught on the course is things I have told them ­already, but sometimes advice carries more weight with teenagers when it comes from someone from outside the family."

For young adults

1. Think, speak and act like an adult to be treated like one

"Step Up" to more responsibilities. If you do, your parents will "Step Aside" and give you more freedom.

2. Stay out of trouble - and don't be where trouble is

Nothing good happens after midnight. The later it gets the more likely you're hanging with drunk, bored and angry people looking for danger.

3. Don't wish your problems were smaller or that life was easier

Instead, grow yourself and increase your ability to deal with real life. Put good things into your head by what you read, what you watch, what you listen to and by the games you play.

4. Strive to become competitive with good character

Strut your stuff - but develop your character along the way so you can be proud of the person you are.

5. Don't let success go to your head nor failure to your heart

Life is a series of wins and losses and often both simultaneously. Treat success and failure as temporary and neither will take you off course.

6. Sex without commitment is like tomato sauce without a pie

Build your relationship as if in a slow cooker, not a microwave, so you won't become emotionally burnt out and romantically used up.

For parents

1. Love intentionally and not just emotionally

Visualise your kids as adults - successful in their work and happy in their personal lives. In 25-30 years your kids will be running the world. They could be making decisions for you.

2. Be fair, clear, and put it in writing

Take the opportunity while your kids are dependent on you to prepare them to live away from home. Involve them in the running of the home. Contribution brings ownership, pride and confidence.

3. Be an effective parenting unit

Most parents were raised differently from each another and yet are expected to parent from the same page. About half of parents don't live under the same roof. Nonetheless sticking together is still the best way to show love.

4. Move from control to influence and from nurturing to empowering

Micro-manage less, expect more. Let kids feel consequences of their actions. Help in a dangerous situation - but let them develop their own wisdom.

5. Keep a track of the money they owe you

Don't give your kids money just to keep the peace. Encourage them to get a part time job and learn to live on a budget.

- Source: Making It On My Own

Making It On My Own is available from tomorrow.