Going from authoritative teacher to accountable guide.
Updated: Mar 7, 2019
"I've Told Them A Thousand Times!"
Over the years, I've heard parents tell me time and time again that it's like pulling teeth to get their teen to do anything. From their years of experience living on this earth, parents have a "40,000-foot view" of the world. So, they tend to teach teens what to do to get the most out of life. "Do your homework." "Don't hang out with those people." "Get some sleep." "Go outside and get some exercise." Does any of that sound familiar to you? As a result, parents and teens often find themselves in conflict.
Parents believe their kids are being lazy or rebellious, and teens don't like being told what to do. Even though stress like this is common in the parent-teen relationship, it doesn't need to exist. Parents should be able to get their teens to take some positive action without having to force them to do it.
If this is something you're struggling with at home, you're not alone. I've helped other parents through this same situation. When our children are young, we tend to instruct them in the ways they should go while providing rewards and punishment to manage behavior. I refer to this parenting role as the "Authoritative Teacher". But as our children become teenagers, the way we parent our kids needs to evolve. We need to transition to the role of "Accountable Guide".
If you're ready to stop repeating yourself and see some positive action from your teen, try these simple steps:
1. Transition from Telling to Asking
When our kids are young, they haven't completely developed the ability to make good decisions on their own. They need to be told what to do, how, when, and why. But, as children grow into their teenage years, the parent child relationship naturally begins to shift. Instead of constantly telling your teen what to do, try to guide the conversation through asking questions. You'll find that, most of the time, your teen will naturally uncover the appropriate responses to situations. Only in rare situations will teens not know what should be done. The answer just needs to come from within. Beware of a tendency to guide them to your solution. Instead, ask open ended questions which draw out solutions from your teen. You should find their solutions are either the same or better than yours.
For advice on learning how to have better conversations with your teens, I recommend reading the book "RISER: A Practical Toolkit for Strengthening Your Relationships with Young People" by Greg Joiner. Buy it on Amazon through this link.
2. Become Their Accountability Partner
The Authoritative Teacher holds a teenager to the teacher's standards. The Accountable Guide holds the teenager to the teen's standards. This is one of the quickest ways to ease the tension in a parent-teen relationship. Once your teenager comes up with a solution, goal, habit, or standard they'd like to adopt, you can begin holding them accountable to it.
Here's an example: I once had a client who would constantly find himself too tired to stay engaged in class. As a result, his grades began to slip and his teachers were getting pretty annoyed with him. Things between him and his parent were a little rocky too. The young man was spending hours at night on his digital devices and playing video games. He just wasn't getting enough sleep. Initially, the parent tried taking devices away, threatening punishment, telling the teen to go to sleep on time. Things only got worse.
Then, I guided the teen through the process of casting his own vision for what he wanted his life to look like. We discovered that even he was tired of being tired all the time. He wanted to do better in school. So, I asked him questions to guide him through finding possible solutions for his problem. Guess what! He decided to set a standard bed time, stop using electronic devices at night, and begin a morning fitness routine. These are all things the parent had been suggesting, but the solutions had finally become his own.
Finally, the parent was able to walk alongside the teen holding them accountable to the teen's goals & standards. Now, the parent could come at the issue from a perspective of helping the teen with something the teen wanted instead of what the parent wanted. Do you notice the difference? Even though the solutions were the same, the "why" now had roots. All real change comes from within.
If you start guiding your teen to solutions through asking questions and holding them accountable to their own goals & standards, you'll find yourself in a more positive relationship with your teen. Action will finally begin to take place. You may even discover that you and your teenager both want the same thing... it just had to come from within.
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