Teen Communication

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Teens have a special place in my heart. They are emerging adults but still have some child-like qualities and a zest for life that is untainted by the demands and experience of a full adult life. In find this dichotomy comical and amusing. It reminds me to let go and have fun.  As a teacher, I learned from them as much as they learned from me.

What I have really learned about teens is that they just want to be supported, understood, and respected. You do NOT get a teen to do what you want by demanding, threatening, and treating them like a child. (heck, even young children rebel against bossiness) That authoritarian stance will mostly backfire. It might work for some or for a little while but it just might create a tension that will get in the way when there are bigger issues to resolve.

I have noticed in my child’s high school, what seems like an increase in the carrot-stick approach to behavior management. For instance, they are cracking down on student tardiness. The school decided to give detention for students’ repeated lateness but what they fail to consider are the reasons for the lateness because most are driven by parents.  Then I saw a friend post a pile of tardy slips her daughter had accumulated and thought to myself “the detention thing sure doesn’t seem to be deterring this tardiness behavior”.  I am sure this solution is just a result of not knowing what else to do and relying on past experiences instead of trying new progressive approaches.

What could be done?

In my experience teaching and coaching, engaging the students in a discussion of WHY they are late and HOW they can overcome the obstacles getting in their way works much better. If it’s the parent’s fault, why punish the child? This teaches student that these policies are unfair and we lose their respect. Instead talk to the parent or help child do that. If it is the child, we can help them find strategies that they can work with; help motivate them to WANT to change. Let them own the process and choices but with adult guidance and support. Let them own their successes and learn from their mistakes.  I wonder how often a student is asked “What’s going on?”, “How can I help?”. I know from personal experience not as often as it should.

Power struggles between adults and teens degrade trust which is needed to accomplish great things together. If they are sent to detention…then maybe detention could be a forum for positive discussion with supportive and caring adults who can help teens figure out how to change their behaviors, and perspectives. Create the positive relationship. Honor their ideas. Instead of punishment, it could be a form of coaching.

Now more than ever, we need to create that positive relationship and a culture of teamwork. Teens just want to feel respected, trusted, and cared for. If we want them to change, we must change.  How do we do this? Non-violent communication is one way. This doesn’t just mean don’t hit/hurt. It means to observe, not judge. Ask, not tell. Work with your teen, not against them. Help them develop and own their behavior change with your support. Let them know you care. Caring and empathy go a long way.

For example, a student is not doing work. Instead of detention and ignoring them as bad or uncooperative. Talk to them…”I notice X, and I was concerned about Y. What’s going on? “. “How can I help?” and “What do you need from me?”  get a lot closer to success then “just do it”, or thinking “that’s not my problem, it’s yours”.  I have seen this work and I have helped turn student’s disengagement into success through this approach.

This goes for parenting…but it is a but harder and the relationship is MUCH more complex. But the essence is the same. Approach teens with love and respect. They are just kids who still need you while they break free and find their way into adulthood. I have done it the “my way or the highway” authoritarian approach and it only works for so long and/or it degrades the relationship and potentially the child’s self-esteem. When I changed my approach with my own children, I noticed a huge shift in them and in our relationship. No parenting relationship is perfect but my kids seem much happier with the new me.

So judge less, listen more, curiously inquire.

This is why I am coaching teens. They need more adults who are willing to help them find their way in a positive and supportive environment.  It takes a village, right?

Want to read more about teens and communication?

Parenting: “Get Out of My Life but first can you take me and Cheryl to the mall?”

Growth mindset? “Growth Mindset; the psychology of success”

Non-violent communication? Nonviolent Communication website

 

 

 

 

love in troubled times

When I first met my husband back in my college days, he was this calm and grounded guy (still is, I suppose). Initially, I actually thought something had to be wrong with him because he was so different from anyone I had known. Over time, I realized how nice this was to have someone who didn’t have a temper or was not easily provoked. He was thoughtful with his words and ALWAYS able to see multiple sides of any situation. He read books by Carlos Castenada and about the Tao and Buddhism and other religious and cultural practices that I knew nothing about. It was intriguing. It opened up a whole new world to me.

I was a stress case, highly emotional, judgemental, and aggressive. His understanding untitled-7947and grounded nature helped me become the person I wanted to be instead of who I was at the time. He always reminded me that tough times were just temporary and transitional, they didn’t last forever so don’t hang on to the emotions of it. However I remember telling him “it’s easy to be all zen when you have no stress, but can you do it during times of turmoil?” Being married and raising children certainly put him to the test.

Today, I still think that is a valid question. Can you remain loving, gentle, understanding, grounded, and with a healthy perspective when times are tough? …with someone who has hurt you? …when life is not going your way? These are the times that your resolve is tested and these are the times when your beliefs get put into practice. Can you walk the real walk?

There have been many times that I have been hurt or perceived some injustice. In the past, I would get angry, hateful, depressed….all sorts of negative behaviors and thoughts. More recently, after years of living with Jeff and surrounding myself with books and peope who value love, I find myself able to just observe and honor that there is a reason for what is happening. Maybe I needed to learn a lesson, maybe they did. No matter what, it is an opportunity for growth and practice.

It’s a lesson in love and patience.

Every day, we can get mad, get even, or move on. Its our choice. When I chose to come at a situation from a place of love and understanding, I really feel better…even if my feelings have been hurt or if something bad has happened. I can feel the pain but understand its part of the journey and I will survive.  I will be a better person for the experience and I say “thank you” for the lesson.

Life goes on…make something good from bad, but don’t hang on to the negativity. Don’t punish yourself or others. Say “thank you” for the opportunity to grow, learn, and be challenged.

I could give SO many examples to help illustrate this but I won’t…there are just too many and there is no reason to bring up the past and possibly hurt people. But we have all been there. To minimize the hurt, try to find the other perspective, the other side of the story….see everything from multiple points of view.

I say this a lot…ask my students: Life is like a car accident. Envision two cars, having their own journey, collide with each other. Each car/person has their own story of what happened. It is their own experience. Many times it doesn’t match the other car’s story/experience. Yet, it’s the same event with 2 unqiue and true stories.  Step away and see the other car’s story and how it looks from that angle. It can teach you a lot about yourself and how the world works. You also begin to observe and respond with thoughtfulness instead of reacting with emotion.

I promise, if you can stop for a second and see the rest of the story…your life will be richer for it. The hurts won’t seem to big.

Am I perfect at this….heck no! But I keep trying. Each time I get a little better, a little more loving, a little less broken.

“Be mindful in your personal actions and act with empathy and compassion towards the environment and others.” – Tessa Wardley from The Mindful Art of Wild Swimming

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