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!

1 comment:

Donna Marie said...

What if your teen doesn't say anything, even though you give them the first chance to talk or what if they consistently say "I don't know"? When teens "opt out" every time there is a conversation, the parent may have to be the only one talking. Then it turns into lecture again instead of a dialogue.

It's like opening a trap door instead of a window.

What can you do about young adults living in your home who are lying? 19 or 20 year olds are too old to punish and there really isn't anything to take away.

Lastly, is there any suggestion for a part time college student living at home and not motivated to get a job to contribute to the household finances and their own pocket money?

Great blog and opportunity for parents to get educated.


Donna Marie Laino