July 13th, 2009
“My 11-year-old is disrespectful, talks back to us, and unmotivated in school. We’ve tried talking to her, giving her rewards and punishment, nothing seems to work. What should we do?”
I’ve been answering this parent’s question in the last two posts:
I’ve stayed away from offering specific techniques such as grounding your child, taking away electronics, or offering incentives as a means to discourage bad behavior. Methods are definitely useful, and I am sure you have various ideas for doing that. In fact, you’ve probably tried many of them.
But the approach that I talk about here in dealing with teens is to influence our children by the building of relationships and by the lives we live, rather than just focusing on solving the immediate problem. If you follow the suggestions I gave in the previous posts listed above, you will see that it takes your personal involvement in forging a stronger relationship and opening up yourselves with your tween.
When our tweens are going through this period of rebellion and acting up, our natural reaction is to apply pressure. If we press hard enough, there is a good chance that the behavior will improve. But are the problems really solved?
When our son or daughter misbehaves, chances are, those are not the only problems in his or her life. Humans are much more complex. Troubleshoot just the immediate problem and another will show up. Or as soon as he/she leaves for college, all hell breaks loose.
I recently talked to a man in his thirties who by all outward appearances was a good kid when he was a teenager – excellent grades, involved in sports, went to church. But he led a double life with alcohol and drug abuse, along with a period of affiliation with gangs. His parents may have suspected something was going on, but as long as he was getting good grades, they didn’t bother to explore further. When he left home for college, there were no more pretenses. He went all out in with partying, sex and even selling drugs.
I encourage the “holistic” approach of working with your teens because it opens the door of communication with your children that will serve them better in the long run. When you see some signs of trouble in their lives, having a positive relationship will allow you to understand on a deeper level what they are going through. Is she struggling with a lack of love and acceptance? Is he dealing with a wavering self-confidence? Is he feeling much pressure for good grades? Does she think she is failing to live up to your expectations?
Our children would appreciate us treating them with understanding and respect, as all human beings would want to be treated. Do not just focus on trying to get them to conform to a set of standards, however good they may be.
When home with you is a safe place, a place of acceptance, love, and honesty, that’s where you can begin to influence your children to make better decisions, now and in the future.
Here are just 3 easy suggestions to start you off to build a positive relationship with your children:
1. Spend one-on-one time, away from other siblings. I suggest an overnight trip as I do annually with my daughter. Whether you have a son or daughter, individual time with his/her dad is especially important. A father-daughter dinner date night on a regular basis is easy to implement.
2. Develop better communication techniques in talking with your tweens. Listen to my podcast interview with Aurelia Williams, author and expert with teenagers. She gives practical advice on how to approach our teens.
3. Don’t let a day go by without giving a word of encouragement. Our children may not seem to care, but believe me, they long to hear words of affirmation from us.
Remember, your child is a human being with his own volition and growth pattern. Don’t expect them to change overnight. But if you do a little bit of the right stuff everyday, it will all add up to make a difference in your child’s life.