Tag Archive for: How can I get my teen to listen?

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?  Send me an email with your communication question and I’ll be sure to respond.  You can contact me at debbiehitchcock@gettingperspective.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does Your Kid Make You Feel Like You Can Do Nothing Right?

 

Last week I felt like everything I did for one of my kids was met with sarcasm, frustration, or anger.  The typical jokes we had between us, the acts of kindness I did, and every time I seemed to open my mouth it was met with a snarl of “you never…” or “you always…”.  I couldn’t win.

Having had four kids under my roof, I’ve learned to try different things to get to the root of the issue.  This time was no different.

I fixed a special breakfast one morning.  No change.

A special treat from the grocery store.  No change.

I tried talking about it.  More anger.

Going for a walk with him.  Good conversation about the weather and general topics — but no change.

And then I decided to wait.  

I didn’t totally avoid him (after all we were living in the same house), but I did my thing and he did his.  I didn’t go out of my way to seek resolution.  (After all, I had already tried that and it hadn’t worked).  So I waited.

If he needed something, he had to come to me.

And I continued to wait.  (Difficult for me as a mom who wants to solve the problem now.)

One evening as the two of us were together standing in the kitchen with no one else home, the words came tumbling out of his mouth.  He shared his fears and his assumptions about how I was handling a situation.

I listened–I mean really listened.  

The words kept coming as if pent up emotion had been there for years — and in all reality it had.  A feeling he had almost a decade before had been triggered by a choice I had made two weeks earlier.  My son had tied that feeling of 10 years ago to a situation I was facing today.  As a result he was making assumptions.  Assumptions that I was responding the same way I had all those years ago.

And he was angry, frustrated, and filled with fear.

A-ha!  Now I knew what was troubling him.  

Rather than tell my side of the story, which is where my true now I can fix-it nature likes to go.  Thankfully I paused long enough to know what I should really do in moments like this.

I empathized.  I apologized for what he experienced earlier.  I made sure that he felt heard and affirmed.

Then I asked a critical question.  “I know you were hurt years ago, and I know that the decision I made this time feels the same way to you, and I’m sorry.  Would it be okay if I share why I think this time is different from last time?”

Notice that I asked permission to talk.

What I’ve learned is that when there is a disconnect between two people, asking their permission to tell them how you see the situation differently creates two things — an acknowledgement that you heard them and an understanding that you want to create a “safe” place for them.

If my son had said no to my question, I would have honored that and ended the conversation with something like “I know that this has been difficult for you and I respect that.  I do feel like the situation today is very different from what you experienced in the past.  When you are ready to talk about it let me know and I’ll share how I see things now.”

Thankfully my son agreed to let me share what I was thinking about the current circumstances.  Once he was able to hear my heart, the climate changed between us.  The sarcasm, the frustration, and the anger seem to be gone.  Mutual respect has re-entered our relationship because we now understand each other’s reasons for our choices and behavior.

Without the empathy and respect piece, we don’t create safety for the other person in the relationship.  This derails our conversations and keeps us from getting to the root cause.  Instead we typically try to justify or at least explain our side of the story which makes things unsafe for the other person.

I’ll admit that typically I’m terrible about making sure I validate the other person.  I just want to fix the problem and move on.  However, we need to remember that conflict resolved well (with empathy, validation, and safety), creates a more intimate relationship.  

I’ve given my son permission to give me a cue when I head down the path of justifying my actions before I’ve made sure he has been heard.  It’s humbling to see how many times I get it wrong.  That said, I want to grow in my relationships with others–especially with my kids.

Proverbs 19:11

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

Dare you to  look at how you respond when your kid seems frustrated or angry at you.  Empathize, validate, and create safety to mend and create a more fulfilling relationship.

“Let go…and let God”,