Saturday, November 29, 2008

Topic Three in Teen Parenting Series - Pulling out the Positive When Talking With Your Teens

Too often teens feel their parents are saying they are bad. Today's installment is about pulling out the positive and focusing on that in your conversation with your teen. This teen talk lesson will sound like a repeat of toddler positive reinforcement 101, because it is. Parents need to be reminded this technique does not lose it's effectiveness with age. It is simple- human nature responds better to positive language vs. negative. It's the rare parent that truly believes they have a "bad" kid. Our kids will make bad choices, that is a given (it is how we learn and grow). Teen choices are what worry or anger us, and the choices are what we are trying to correct.
Parents need to be conscious of the words we use. In an effort to comment on, or correct our teen's bad choice, our words often give a different message than we intended.
Refrain from Immediate Evaluation Syndrome (common parental affliction) Example Scenario: Teen venting about bad day at school. ..."Oh my gosh Mom, the lunchroom is horrible, every day, its just horrible!" Negative Response: ..." I think your exaggerating there must be some days that are okay in the cafeteria."
  • This response, with good intentions, says to the teen, your wrong.
Positive Response: ..."Wow, it's been pretty bad in there lately, huh?"
  • This is better because it acknowledges their bad day without evaluating the teen. BONUS: minus the "being attacked" feeling, your teen is more likely to continue in the conversation, probably in a more informative vein.
  • By being careful and conscious of her responses, mom will learn a lot more about her teen's day, at the same time, her teen has a chance to vent and get it out of her system.
  • Parents still left scratching their head after a 1 sentence exchange need to reflect on their last few conversations, maybe they created the "mute teen effect" without even knowing.
Curb parental "Reactionary Stance" when responding to teen behavior Example Scenario: Teen and younger sibling. Negative Reaction Dad "Leave the baby alone Michael!" Teen "I was just rubbing his back" Dad "I know what you are doing, just stop it before you wake him please" Positive Reaction Dad "I like rubbing his back too, I'm just afraid he will wake up, he just fell asleep."
The positive reaction acknowledges the teen's good intentions in a non-judgmental way. Furthermore, the parent is showing empathy with the teen.
Having sincere empathy in your response creates an alliance with your teen, this removes the parent from the more adversarial role their teen sees them as.
Positive reinforcement works, when we pull out the positive and focus on that in a situation or conversation, everyone feels better.
  • Positive reinforcement, praise, encouragement, these are the winning ways when interacting with your teens!
  • Used consistently in a direct way will get results.
  • Don't be fooled into thinking it isn't working. Teens, almost sub-consciously, want you to believe you are having no effect on what they do, or how they do it.
  • Be patient! With time you will see, in their very actions and reactions, that it is working!
Bottom line parents, our job is to be positive, encouraging and full of praise for our children.
  • Being positive when correcting a bad choice, points the teen towards their positive attributes, not leaving them to dwell on their negative choice.
  • Encouraging your child on a consistent basis when they are engaged in the appropriate behaviors will only increase the positive (desired) behavior.
  • Praising your children can't be emphasized enough, who on earth does NOT respond in a positive manner to praise!
If you have tried, or intend to try, any of the strategies in this Teen Series please post your success stories and/or mistakes you have made and learned from. Next Teen Talk Rule in the Series: How to dodge the bullet of Teenager Nagging.


Daisyaday said...

I just wanted to say hello and that I found your blog on the MBC. I think your blog is a great idea and I like that you are so positive. Happy blogging.

Rock and Roll Mama said...

Meglyn! Thank you for this. My 12 year old is pretty much a teen, and I heard alot of myself in the judging/negative framing. Whenever I think he's being a space cadet, I tend to jump to snappishness. Reading the parent responses brought mtself up short. I wouldn't like it at all if someone spoke to me like that, and yet i do it to my kid. Will definitely be working on this.