As we’ve talked and thought about putting an end to smart-mouthed pups at your home, we’ve moved from Level 1 ( I’ll tolerate a bit of this since you may have had a tough day and this is your home, a place to let off a bit of steam), to Level 2 (this is how your unbecoming behavior really looks and besides that, your tone of voice, facial expression and body language are shrieking!!!), which brings us to Level 3. As you might imagine, we’ve amping up our tools and our efforts.

One thing which is helpful to keep in mind is that, as kids grow older, they are likely to have legitimate differences with us. Do we really want a kid who says, “Okey doke, Mom, of course, you’re always right. How silly of me to have an opinion when you can have one for me.”  I hope you agree with me that we know and accept the fact that our kids can have a different opinion, a different manner of getting the job done, a different sense of style, etc.  Which begs the question, if you and I do not see things the same way, how do I expect/tolerate your expression of those differences? It’s helpful here to imagine just for a moment that the other person in the conversation is not your teen but your friend or colleague. If you differed from a friend, how would you express it? And sometimes, do you agree to disagree BUT still remain friends? Chances are that a disagreement would begin with something like, “How come you decided to do it that way?” Your friend would explain; you might continue, “Had you thought of doing it this way instead?” Your friend might explain why she decided NOT to do it that way. You might continue, “Hmmm. I think this would work better. Would you be willing to try it?” In other words, you’d take the time to investigate and respect the other person’s reasoning process, working toward a negotiation, sometimes called a win/win solution.

I can hear you already: “But that takes so much longer!!!” And, of course, you’re right. But when we accomplish less than a win/win solution, often the “losing” party (typically our kid) has little investment in the solution. So it isn’t long before we have to hassle the issue again. Make note of the United Nations steps two parties take toward negotiating a settlement:

1. Describe what you each want in this situation;

2. Exchange each of your reasons for wanting that outcome;

3. Each of you restate, understand the other’s reasons;

4. Together, select a plan, an “experiment” to which both can agree, including a timeline on when to check back.

As we work our way through challenging conversations, it’s useful to keep in mind that not only are we trying to solve today’s dispute, but more importantly, we are setting a model, a pattern, for how our kid is to disagree with someone and how he is to work to resolve differences. In other words, this isn’t just about today! It should not surprise us that our teen (especially a middle school age kid) is not very good at this process. Sometimes they can’t get it at all; sometimes they get it while we’re talking but don’t follow through; sometimes they get it for a while, then relapse. And, if we’re not careful, so do we! The steps in negotiation, above, begin to instill real listening, really being heard, and joining to solve living together in a peaceful way.

Like training your pup to a leash, it doesn’t happen in one day. It requires great consistency and patience. And great praise when a tiny movement forward happens. Just know that their families, friends and employers of the future will be grateful you did your part!

 Next time, Level 4. . .