Teenagers aren't lazy, they are just really efficient in how they use their time. I'm guessing that since you are the one reading this blog, you are not the lazy teenager, but you may know one. You are probably a parent of one. If you are a teenager and you are wondering what I'm telling your parents, read on, I think this can help you as well.
To start, what is your job as a parent? If you have worked with me very long, you know I have one answer to that and we are going to reiterate that right up front. Your job is to love them no matter what and even if. Now most parents say, “Well duh, yeah, of course, I love them.” Don't lose sight of that, your job is to love them no matter what and even if. When you realize your job is not to make sure that they are not lazy or to make sure that they are productive citizens or to make sure that they make sure that they make sure that they… Do you see how burdensome that is and you can't even do it, I don't think it's possible because of something that we will get to in this video.
Now keeping that perspective, your job is to love them no matter what and even if, couple that with the influence quadrant that I created. See the link below to one of my YouTube videos that you can watch to get the full explanation. As a parent, we want to be in the green quadrant where we are an influencer and have communication with our child. When we are green it is powerful because your focus shifts from all about you as a parent to all about your child and because you love them, in this case your teenager, because you love them, you know that it is not good for them to stay lazy and non-productive. You know this as a parent, life has taught you a few things so from that perspective, let's take a look at control.
Get a piece of paper and draw a T-chart. Just make a big capital T on the paper. At the top, on one side of the T, that is your teenage son or daughter’s side. On the other side, that is the parents' column. Brainstorm with me, a few things that we can put on each list. This is a list of things that are relevant to your teenager's life and we are going to put it on the side of whoever controls that thing.
How about working, who controls that? Your teenager does. How about attitude? Yep, it's over on their side. How about behavior? Do you see a common theme here? How about how your teenager handles school? Who controls that? Yep, once again. How about language? How about music or other media? How about their schedule? How about how they handle church? What about what they are doing with their friends? Gee, the chart is looking a little lopsided. Who controls all of this stuff? They do and I'm not saying that's right or wrong, I just want to acknowledge what it is and we have to face the harsh reality sometimes because you don't control this stuff, parents. If you don't believe that, I bet your teen will prove that to you and it won't take very long, will it? Let's be clear about that.
What do you control as a parent? What do you control about your teenager's life? Let's start with probably the most important one. I've already mentioned it to you, your own attitude. Your own attitude, your own position, your own perspective, you control that, not your teenager. This is important because I have a lot of parents that I've worked with in the past especially who will come in and say, “They're just driving me crazy.” I can appreciate why you say that but consider your emotional life here for a moment. What if you could get to the point where you are good either way, no matter what your teenager is doing? That's what I'm talking about, you get to control your own attitude.
Let's say you get a new car, brand new car, it's your dream car, you love it and you are driving down the road in your dream car and your teenager is standing right over there on the sidewalk and your teenager waves you down. He says, “Hey, dad. Nice ride.” You are like, oh boy, what's going to happen here? You pull over, roll down the window and you look at him and say, “So uh, what are you doing?' He says, “Oh dad, I just love you a new car, how about if I drive it for a while?” You were afraid this would happen and you get out of the car and you hand him the keys. Your teenager hops in the car, fires it up, drives it right into a pole, totals the car, he's fine thankfully, but he gets out and he looks back at you and says, “Oh sorry.” Now what's wrong with this story people?
First of all, why are you giving the keys to someone that you don't trust to handle the vehicle appropriately? What if our emotional life were the car? Yeah, who are you going to give the keys to? I'm thinking hang on to the keys, you get to drive this one, you are in charge of your own attitude, you are in charge of your own emotions, that's going to shock and surprise some people. Really, I'm in charge of this? Yeah, you are in charge of your own behavior. You might be thinking but that doesn't have anything to do with my son or my daughter who's vegging out all day playing video games in the basement. Really? Yeah, it has a lot to do with it because you are the parent that is going to show up and this next part is going to empower you to have more influence.
We get to control what we provide. This is good news because what are you most concerned about? Look at the two sides of your T-chart. As a parent, which list are you more concerned about? Your teenager’s side, but you don't control that one, you control the parents side. Which list is your teenager most concerned about? They control their side, and they are not worried about that stuff. You are concerned, but you don't control it. Which list are they worried about? They are worried about your side, because they don't control it, but they are counting on a lot of the things that you provide.
I want to be clear about something. You are a benevolent, generous, loving parent. There is all kinds of arguments to support that. You are not going to take anything away from your teenager, but you may make some things available that you provide, contingent on some transaction that we can set up. Before we go there, there are 5 freebies you don't get to withhold. Let's put them down.
One, love. Your job is to love them no matter what and even if, they don't have to qualify for it, they don't have to do anything for you to give that to them freely. Love. Two, air. I know you don't give them air but you have no business depriving them of it so you'd think people would know this but I had a client whose daughter died, you've got to have air. I'm putting it on the list even though it's ridiculous. Three, water. Do not withhold water. Four, food. You can go a little longer without food than you can without water but they are both necessary. I didn’t say preferred food, just simply food. You want to be able to sustain life, keep the belly button away from the backbone. Number five, shelter. You are responsible for this, you are a parent, there are legal and ethical and moral responsibilities you have to provide all the freebies for your kids, you don't get to mess with those.
Now when I say mess with them, shelter does not necessarily mean a bedroom. Are you with me? It means protect them from the elements, it includes appropriate clothing. Notice I said appropriate, not necessarily preferred, because that happens to be a higher level privilege and we can reserve that for the transaction. Now what about the transaction? We agree as parents to control something on our list in a way that our teenager likes in exchange for our teenager agreeing to control something on their list in a way that we like, simply a business transaction. In fact, we are going to take all the emotion out of the discipline, put that back into the relationship where it belongs, this is simply a business transaction.
What we provide can get pretty powerful. We provide access to certain spaces or equipment or things in our home, we provide money, we provide transportation, we provide telecommunications. The list goes on and on and on and as long as it's not on the freebie list, it's negotiable. We agree to control access for example to electronic equipment and side note, you have to be able and willing to enforce this otherwise it doesn't work. Access to electronic equipment is based on how they choose to handle school or work or whatever else it is that they are not doing because they have been so lazy. Are you following me?
One last comment here, stay calm. Stay in a good place, keep smiling. When parents are smiling, kids are thinking, use it to your advantage. We want to change the energy around this whole thing from shame to game. Think about that, shame to game. No more shame, no more guilt, no more you shoulda or I wish you would, simply turn it into a game. Hey, I would like to offer you this in exchange for that, either way is okay with me. You are smiling, kids are thinking. Actually, these lazy teenagers are pretty brilliant and efficient but we know a little more about the game of life.