Friday, April 13, 2012

A Question...Do You Have Answers?

After reading my post on getting teens to talk around your table, Rick, from New York, wrote with a question. I have some ideas, but both Rick and I would like some input from you as well. In a multitude of counselors is wisdom (see Proverbs 11:14).


Rick, a father of four, wrote: What about when your learn from your children's friends of a big project that is due that you haven't heard a peep about? It seems like listening without criticizing or correcting  isn't the way to go here. Don't we have a responsibility to teach our children (even our teens) responsibility?
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My thoughts: First of all, we are still their parents and do have a right and responsibility to correct when the time comes. When I said to not "jump in...refute...tear down" their every opinion, I meant the comments they say, the ideas they express. I am still learning to do this.


I think one way to overcome the "you only criticize" syndrome is to make an intentional effort to ask questions that are not judgmental, but seek to discover what they are really thinking and feeling and how they came to have that opinion. Sometimes all it takes to get an explanation is patiently waiting in silence. I'm always surprised when I manage to do this how often they talk themselves out of their own idea or even change their "tune." (Maybe they were looking for a reaction!) This needs to be our deliberate plan all the time so that when we do have to correct, we haven't been saying little nitpicky things. This is somthing Jim and I fight with, it's easy to see what's wrong and overlook what's right. (Didn't you just notice the misspelled word in that sentence but never thought about all the correctly spelled words I've used?)


Southern Plantation--One of the School Projects that Came from Our Home
Secondly, a little reality discipline can be good. A high schooler who doesn't get an assignment done or done well because they procrastinated gets a bad grade. Bad grades carry consequences at school and at home. Allow school to implement their discipline (are they off a sports team if their grades go to low? Don't try to save them from this real life discipline.) Be in touch with teachers and ask them to let you know if something isn't turned in or is done poorly. Then at home you can also give whatever consequence is realistic--probably something like not being allowed to attend a special event or losing Internet privileges. Whatever it is, it should be what they least want you to do! (And this is not easy to do as a parent. For more on this read Kevin Leman's book Have a New Teen by Friday.)


Photo Credit
One of the things we have struggled with is our desire to control, to stand over our children, even older teens, to make sure they get assignments done. One of our jobs as parents is to teach our children to be responsible or pay the consequences. We start when they are young, insisting that they use their time well and get things finished, but gradually we give the decisions over to them about how to use their time, how much effort to put into an assignment, and when to finish. If they choose poorly and end up staying up late to finish something, they still have to get up and go to school the next day. We won't be there to help them with college assignments and their boss will expect them to be on time every day.


Others' Ideas
Ken, a father of three grown daughters said: We would simply bring it up in conversation.  “So how is your science project coming along?”  Perhaps they did not know that we knew they had a “science project” due.  But by simply asking them a question about that they now knew we were aware of it, and it allowed them to respond without feeling that we were somehow attacking them or being over critical of the decision they had made to not let us know.  This could be followed up with, “well, let me know if I can help in any way”.  
His oldest daughter responded to this thought: It's interesting looking back and seeing your perspective... And I've always thought that you all managed to do what other parents are unable to do... Teach us about individual responsibility and respect and love us for the individual women that we are.
His second daughter said: …funny how the things you say I find myself teaching already to my children. ... now I know why I do it the way I do. I got it from you.

Carolyn, mother of three grown daughters said: It is best to lead a mealtime discussion in such a way that will help the teen make their own decision regarding time use.  Then have them understand, and agree with the consequences if the expectations aren't met.


Charlie, the father of two grown daughters said: I think asking questions in a loving, supportive way is a fair method to handle this kind of situation.  To open the discussion one might say  "One of your friends mentioned that you have a project due at school." ,  "What have you chosen to work on?",  "Is there anything Mom and I can help you with?"  Then add a word of encouragement by saying something like "I'm sure you will do good work on your project.  Mom and I would love to see it when you have completed it."  By asking questions like these we can begin our discussion in a positive way. This can lead to a healthier discussion later about their lack of communication with you.



What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with us? Do you have more or other ideas? I welcome discussion on this either in the comments below or at my email here. I'll post your ideas and together we'll all learn.





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