How Do I Get Through to My Teen’s Brain?

Last week a friend sent me a funny picture.  It was a picture of an empty glass sitting on her kitchen counter.  Her comment on the photo read, “Asked my teen to get me a glass of lemonade.  Guess he got it half right.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle.  At least she was looking at the bright side.  After all, he did get the glass out.  🙂

The question I have to ask is, “How would you have handled that situation?”

  1.  Laughter and overlook it?
  2. Get upset for your teen not doing what he was asked and read him the riot act?
  3. Ground him for disobedience?
  4. Refuse to do what he asks you to do next time?

It reminded me of a “what do I do?” question that I got from another mom.  This mom was running late with errands and needed her teen to put pasta on for dinner.  

This mom called five minutes before she was to arrive home.  Her 16 year old daughter was still up in her room and hadn’t even made it downstairs by the time mom got home.

And so, how do we decide how to handle these situations when our teens fail to follow through?

One of the things I learned years ago is that it takes our brain time to switch gears.  Say you are in the middle of reading a good book and one of your kids says, “Mom, I need you to ______.”  Do you immediately jump and do whatever it is they need?

Probably not.

It takes our brain time to switch gears unless we are in a crisis situation.  Let’s face it, if our kid said that the grease in the skillet on the stove is on fire, we’d be in the kitchen in a heartbeat regardless of how exciting the novel.

The thing we need to know about our teen’s brain is that we need to “unhook” what they are currently working on in order for them to grasp the importance of what we need them to do in the moment.

Take the empty glass situation I mentioned earlier.  I’m not sure how she asked her son to get her lemonade; however, what if she had said something like, “Honey, I know that you are busy getting ready for soccer, but I need you to stop what you are doing a minute.  Would you please fix me a glass of lemonade because I’m really thirsty and my hands are full and I want to get you to soccer practice on time? Once you’ve gotten my lemonade, you can finish getting ready.” 

Notice the process. 

  1. Acknowledge that what they are doing is important.  (Validation.)
  2. Let them know you need them to stop what they are doing. (Unhooks their brain from their current focus.)
  3. Tell them what they need to do and why. (Gives them urgency.)
  4. Let them know that they can return to what they were doing once they’ve done what you asked. (This again validates the importance of what they are doing and let’s them know they can get back to it.)

When I spoke to the mom about the pasta, she was really frustrated.  The principles she could have applied would have been similar.

“Hi honey, I’m not sure what you are doing right now but I need you to stop whatever it is and do me a favor.  I’m running late with errands and need to get dinner on right away so we can go to the play tonight.  If you would go downstairs right now and put a pot of water on to boil that would help me a ton.  Could you do that for me?” 

Notice the mom ends with a question.  Remember mom isn’t home and has no idea what her daughter is doing.  This question allows the teen to push back and explain why it isn’t possible or why she might be delayed in carrying out the request.  It also gives her brain time to unhook from her current endeavor and acknowledge that she needs to change her focus.

Sometimes it’s the little things in our communication that make all the difference in the world in helping our teens follow through with our requests.  In today’s world our teens are constantly being bombarded with sounds and other technology gimmicks to get their attention.  Learning to communicate in ways that they can hear can unhook our teen’s focus and move them into action.

Proverbs 16:23

The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Want to learn more communication skills that will grow the relationships within your family?  Join us for our Deflating Defensiveness Training Retreat in June 2019.  You’ll have opportunity to look at how you communicate with your husband and your kids and learn skills that can make all the difference.

We help you turn conflict into connection.

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