Paul: Vicki, maybe we ought to change this title to “How to listen so teens will listen?”
Vicki: That is so important. So many kids just feel like, they are not heard. They are not validated. So, listening to them, even when it seems silly to you, especially then.
Paul: You make a good point, Vicki, because I think teens get frustrated sometimes feeling like we don't take the time to actually connect with them. And so, we don't have the credibility that we need when we want them to listen to us because they feel like we have never really listened to them. This puts you in a powerful position as a parent.
Vicki: Remember, everything they are going through is big to them. So, if you want them to listen to you, be sure you are listening to them in all the little things. Little to you, big to them.
Paul: Along those same lines, I've found this to be so powerful in my work as a psychologist. Communicate and show to them genuine liking.
Vicki: This reminds me of my sister’s son who has some really very, very focused likes and things that he likes to talk about. I'm just so fascinated to watch her as she just really shows genuine interest in these games that he might be making up that I don't understand at all. She shows genuine interest. There is true liking there and I think it gives her a lot in the emotional bank for him to listen to her.
Paul: Absolutely. You know, I attended a training recently on sales. The thing that kept repeating was that people will do business with those that they know, like, and trust. What does that have to do with working with your teenager? What if they know like and trust you? So, that's why we are going to implement this genuine interest and communicating that you sincerely, genuinely like them. By the way, if you don't, let's work on that. There are a lot of likable things even about your disruptive teenager. In our communication, Vicki, you're a communications specialist. So, maybe you can chime in on this. But the way I usually say it is stay in front of your but. I hated that the first time you said that. It was so offensive to me. However, I've learned that what he means is a lot of statements are a two part sentence, right?
Vicki: This and that.
Paul: Or, this, but that.
Vicki: If you say, “Your room is clean AND…” -“And you got do the dishes.”
Paul: Instead of your room is clean, but I need you to do the dishes. The BUT just makes it seem like you didn't really mean the first thing. Or you might even say, “You're really happy but yesterday, you were kind of grumpy.” Stay in front of your but. Just say the first part. Or change it to AND.
Vicki: Yes. And that's what it means. You say what you want to say and where the BUT comes in, you stay in front of that BUT. And don't go to the part that's behind the BUT. And I really like this “BUT” I don't like that.
Paul: That just discounted everything that you wanted to say that was positive. So, stay in front of the BUT and then push the pause button. In fact, you got a pause button.
Vicki: You know, one of the things about teens, they are looking to be independent. That is their drive. They want to be seen as an individual and independent of you. One of the best ways you can still encourage them to listen to you is to offer your counsel. Ask permission. “Can I share with you?” “May I share with you some thoughts about that?” Here's the trick: Accept NO.
Vicki: I know. It's so hard.
Paul: But they have to listen to me.
Vicki: When we are offering it, let's have this be a genuine offer and not another way of us saying, “Here comes the information. Here comes my advice, you better get ready for it.” Rather, truly offer your suggestions and your advice. And here's the reason: Who listens to advice when they don't want it anyway?
Paul: What you are saying about permission I think is really important and it's a reflection of how our world is changing. Most of us as parents grew up in an era where things were kind of given to us and we didn't have a lot of different options. We live in the information age now. All of our kids cannot remember a time when there wasn't Google.
Vicki: Right. Or YouTube. Well, I can.
Paul: Although some of you younger parents may be in that same category. We live in an Information Age and because of that, everything has become permission-based. Advertising, for example. It used to be that when you were watching TV you had to watch the commercials. Well now, you only get commercials on TV if you haven't paid for it. And you can often skip the commercials or the ads. Like on these YouTube videos. You watch for 10-15 seconds, you can skip through it after that. It's so permission-based. When people want something, they go find it. Well, this is how your kids are being trained and educated. So, let's take that into consideration with this particular step as you seek their permission. Offer it like you said, Vicki. Offer it but then accept their answer after you have asked permission to share your advice. As you're communicating with your teenager, here's another thing that helps them to really listen. Focus on thinking, not fighting.
Vicki: This was a game changer when we first talked about this. I can even remember that every interaction we have with our child invites them to either think or fight. And it just was a huge eye-opener for me that the way that I approach my child, every interaction I have is inviting them to do one of those two things. So, let's focus on thinking.
Paul: Your awareness of that makes a big difference. And it changes how you show up in that interaction. You can also be explicit about this. As you are talking to your teenager, you might say, “I'm not interested in fighting. I just want to think this through.” Or use other similar phrases that help you connect with the think, not fight. Probably you are already painfully aware of this but here's the bottom line: Some things you control and other things you don't. As your kids get older, you get more in the second category.
Paul: And focusing on what you control is going to really mitigate your frustration.
Vicki: This comes back to my three rules for power struggles. Avoid them. If you can't avoid them, win them. You do that by focusing on what you control. So, this is especially important as our kids start to mature. As they get into those teenage years, they will take more control over their life. Whether you want to share it with them or not, they are going to take it. So, accept that and pay attention to what you do control. That gives you a lot of power still as a parent.
Paul: We are going to come back to what we always do. Remember your job as a parent is to love them no matter what and even if. This will give you some authority and approachability as you try to interact with your teen so that they will listen to you.
Vicki: It also increases your confidence, because you can always do that. Remember, no matter what and even if. You know, some of the parents who have been involved in our Positive Parenting groups have commented that that is the most important, powerful concept that they have been able to learn, is to interact with their teenagers, especially. Because the frustration goes out the door a little bit when you remember, “Wait a minute. My job is to love them no matter what and the even if.”
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