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How to be Heard when Parenting your Teens

Don’t charge it! It is costly to say things with a “charge”, find a better way say it and be heard.

Parents only have the part of the day that is left after school, extra-curricular activities and social time.  When you add in sleep, parents of children, pre-teens and teens are lucky to have a few quality hours with their kids on weekdays, and often not much more on weekends.  How we spend the time in the morning before school, time driving to school and other places, at and after dinner in reality dictates our relationship or non-relationship with our children.

We have these few hours to model functional living, self-responsibility, social manners, positive attitude, work ethic, cooperative family life, not to speak of all of the values and virtues we want to teach our children.

We often have our most productive, functional and pleasant hours during our workday when the kids are at school.  We honor and practice professional right practices all day, as that contributes to our self-worth and self-esteem as well as our success and upward movement in our workplaces.

Our children often have the very same kind of day, as they practice “studentship”, getting along with others, and efforts to perform admirably for teachers.  At the point at which “grades matter”, the pressures are often even higher.

So the chemistry of the situation tends to involve parents who are exhausted, out of gas and without reserves.   The situation for the kids is not a lot different.  They have been holding it together, competing, doing their “best” while facing sometimes demanding and critical teachers.  Finally, our teens and children can “let down” be needy and high “maintanence”. We are all at the end of our emotional rope.  Our abilities to cope are impaired.

This sounds discouraging but there is hope!

When parents are parenting from “exhaustion” and their kids are out of steam, there are a few strategies that can move it to a more positive place.

Everyone needs a chance to share the challenges and successes of their day.  These will come out as they are ready to be spoken.

1-Listen and reflect.  Resist the urge to fix and solve people’s problems or to put any judgment whatsoever.  Be a compassionate listener and wait for permission to offer ideas.  Acknowledge successes and downplay struggles.  When we are tired, we can tend to do the opposite.  We are complacent with the successes of the day, and reactive and judgmental about the drama and challenges.

2.Inject and respond to humor whenever possible.   Empathetic humor is medicinal and healing.

3-QTIP- Quit taking it personally. Take it seriously, but not personally. Most of it is not about you!

4-Reflect rather than react.

5-“Charged” comments can be costly.  Make sure that you speak all chore and other requests without “charge”, which is to say not couched in sarcasm, anger, frustration or demand.  Don’t whine! Replace negative approach and expression with positivity, enthusiasm and respect.  If you can’t, hold back your comments until you can. As an example, “I know we have all had a long, busy day.  I am going to do my best to not nag or remind you to get things done.  Can I just assume (or trust)  you will remember to take the trash cans out to the curb before you go to sleep?”.  If the answer is yes, trust that it will get done.  If it does not get done, the consequence can be the young person’s task to figure out now how to get rid of the trash.  If the answer is no, continue the conversation without “charge”.  Ask, “What do you need to remember to get the chore done? “  Work with whatever the answer is until an understanding is reached.  Perhaps after dinner, each family member can do their chore simultaneously.

6-Set aside time, even if it is brief, to have conversation with you teens that is unrelated to tasks, chores and your own expectations.

7-Practice reflecting, responding, restating and reviewing.

Whatever you do, the less charged, angry, sarcastic, confrontational, aggressive, or passive aggressive you are, the more chance you have of being heard.

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