Thursday, January 31, 2008

Uppity Teanagers

Randy Rolfe has a few suggestions for dealing with uppity teenagers. Her book The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents gives many scripts for responding to your teenager without inviting another smart-alec remark. The third of the Seven Secrets is Listening. If you don't listen first, you don't have a chance of saying something useful.

But listening is the hardest thing to do when your teenager says they want to go do something you can't imagine could be a good idea. Instead of reacting, hear out their plan. Then bite your tongue for a moment. Don't say, "No way! That's a reallly stupid idea. Why can't you come up with something better than that! I was doing great things at your age!" Relax your shoulders, really, and say something more like this: "It sounds like you would really like to do this, and I can see why because it sounds like fun and could be a good adventure. I'm going to have to think about it because I'm not comfortable with it so far, as your parent. You think some more about it too, and we'll talk about it this evening." And then be sure to focus on it in the evening! Whether they bring it up or you do. If they don't, you should.

If you can't get comfortable with it and they is still adamant on doing it, tell them exactly what are your concerns. And meanwhile, be sure you have thought about it seriously enough to be able to express and focus on your biggest objection. Nothing is more frustrating to a teenager than the feeling that you as the parent don't really know what bothers you and are just coming up with multiple excuses to say no. If you can't agree, then take another break and both try to overcome that main objection with a modification of the plan. Your teenager will of course say your suggested modifications are corny and unnecessary, but it's your job to set limits as long as your child is under your roof.

Too often today, parents are so busy they try to give short quick answers and leave the child feeling unheard and disrespected. With those feelings they're likely to try to get away with the plan behind your back! Teenagers want parents to care, and they actually want them to express their concerns based on their own experiences. If no modifications make the plan acceptable to you, then acknowledge the child's disappointment. Don't make up some lame substitute. Simply say, "I'm really sorry I couldn't go along with your plan. I wouldn't be the kind of parent I want to be - and I hope you will be one day - if I didn't set the limits I believe are approriate for your age and stage of life. I love you that much." Okay - it's mushy. But believe me, they like mushy, though they seldom let on.

Randy Rolfe's Take Home Tip of the Day: Make sure your teenager is fed, watered (that is, not dehydrated), and rested before you attempt any negotiations! If they are all worked up about something, suggest sharing a snack and a tall glass of water while you talk! If they say no, go ahead and serve yourself anyhow and chances are they will join in. In today's fast paced world, we're all hungry, thirsty and tired more than we know and it comes out in lazy careless interactions with our loved ones!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Have a Family Friendly Year!

Welcome to 2008! I, Randy Rolfe, haven't really gotten into the blogging habit yet, but it's growing on me. I want so much to share with modern parents the secrets to raising great children and enjoying the process!

The holidays are always very big and special to our family and we had a blast! Now the new year is moving forward quickly and I want to share some more tips!

There is so much you can do to make this a special year for your family. And not to worry, it doesn't have to be things to do, it may be things not to do. Like overscheduling yourself and your children, or feeling you must perfect your decisions or theirs.

We are the parents of our children because we have a longer view of things and can share with them the benefits of our experience. It may seem obvious, but it has profound consequences, that human beings have a longer childhood than any other species. Instead of following rote instinct, we must learn from our elders how to prosper in this world. I always remind parents that their children are genetically programmed to pay attention to their parents, even when it seems that's exactly what they don't want to do. But we always have that going for us.

This power cuts both ways. On the one hand, if we don't give them the guidance they crave, they may feel good about all the freedom, but deep down they will also feel a sense of abandonment. Human parents are meant to oversee their child's development. On the other hand, when we do give them guidance, it is their job to resist, and think, and decide if they will follow our guidance. This is how they develop their judgment and independence. And we must experience that bit of resistance and not take it personally.

But meanwhile, if they have come to appreciate our guidance in the past - being helpful more often than not - they will tend to integrate our guidance and judgment into their own thought processes and in this way progressively become more "mature."

This may sound awfully theoretical. But how does it play out? When a boy of 7 has been playing with some rough school mates and comes home and plays too roughly with his 5 year old sister, what do you do?

If you leave them to work it out for themselves, the girl may not know how to stand up for herself at that age. So the parent can intervene. If the boy gets punished, does he learn anything? Perhaps separating them for 10 minutes and telling them how to moderate their behavior and to think about how they can get along better and have more fun together would be more helpful.

Here the parent is relying on the children's desire to be guided, as well as to get along with parent and sibling. It is amazing how effective small changes like this can be!

Take Home Tip - Take your time to consider the wiser response to your child's behavior this year, each time you feel that frequent parental feeling of: "Now what do I do?" Remember why you are the parent and she or he is the child and count on the time-honored purpose of this powerful family relationship. Let your children see how you deliberate your response and they will learn from your example to be thoughtful and deliberate in their choices.

Come back for more!