Stop and think about it. . . .
Think about how you spoke to your kids when they were little, say 5 or 6.
Then think about how you’ll speak to them when they’re big, say 30 or 35.
Do you think those ways of speaking will be the same?
How do you think they’ll be different?
And, oh, by the way, when did you think you’d be changing?
Pretty often, I have kids tell me in coaching sessions, “My parents just don’t understand ME!!!” Often, I’ve met their parents and, mostly, they seem like pretty reasonable, loving, decent folks. What I’ve come to realize is that teens are speaking code when they say that; what they really mean is, “My folks are not seeing who I am, who I’ve grown into. It’s frustrating me that they are still treating me, speaking to me, the way they did when I was little. I’d like to be viewed and treated as more grown up!” But what kid do you know who can summon the emotional clarity and the verbal directness to articulate that? Often, as the frustration mounts, the outburst becomes more emotional and teens are reduced to childlike tantrums. Not too convincing about the whole “grown up” thing.
What I’d like to propose is that The Way We Speak to our kids, the manner and content and tone of voice, even the structure, of how we speak to and with our kids transitions from childhood until adulthood. Here are a few tips which may help at your house:
1. Do your best to use the same tone, volume of voice you’d use with a colleague.
2. Model speaking to someone respectfully when you are speaking to your teen.
3. If you do not expect your teens to swear at you, do not swear at them.
4. When he/she responds, listen to the reply.
5. If the reply has flawed thinking, ask for clarification.
6. If you feel backed into a corner, ask for a time out to think about the conversation.
7. If you teen makes a good point, clarifies something so you understand better, tell him/her.
8. If your kid (or you) loses emotional control, suggest re-scheduling the conversation.
For your “homework”, try out one of these tips. See how you feel using it and how your teen responds.
Next blog, I’ll be talking about how the right questions can help to expand your teen’s ability to think, plan, and reason! Stay tuned. . . .