Teachable Moments

Screen Shot 2015 03 24 at 7.12.13 PM 300x139 Teachable MomentsI’m a morning person and can’t wait to get the day going. In the morning I feel like a corvette peeling down the highway! However, my teenage son is NOT a morning person. Hence, we have found ourselves in consistent conflict when my cheerful, “Good morning!” is met with a grunt or mumbled, “Morning.” As soon as I feel his lack of energy I often think and occasionally say, “What’s your problem?” And the corvette goes crashing into the slow-moving VW bug.

It’s easy to get offended when your friendly overture to your teenager is met with ambivalence, if not passive hostility. It’s also easy to get frustrated when you are a schedule-oriented, goal-driven parent with a teenager who can’t seem to locate his schoolbooks because the floor is covered with clothes, and who comes within seconds from missing the bus every morning.

What I am learning, or trying to learn, is to breathe and then look for the teachable moments to instruct on matters of disagreement or frustration, rather than reacting at the moment of escalation. Knowing my child is not a morning person helps me make a wise mental “note to self” to discuss the matter later in the day when our discussion will be more effective.

Each summer we take Shelterwood students on hiking trips in Canada and sometimes run across bears. Of course, we encourage our students to literally never ‘poke the bear’ as it escalates the bear’s anger very quickly. And this is a good reminder for parents. Why poke your teenage bear in the morning? More research might need to be done, but I am sure there is significant science behind the idea that teens usually struggle in the morning for a number of developmental reasons. So why would I choose to poke my son in the morning before he’s ready to interact? So I am trying to tone down my morning ‘songbird routine’ when I am around him, and yes, he is still expected to respect me as his dad, but timing is critical when it comes to dealing with conflict.

It isn’t easy but I am really trying to be a proactive parent. It takes discipline, patience, and grace to not react to my son’s attitude and behaviors. Being observant enough to notice and patient enough to wait for the teachable moments takes practice.

Greg Stone
Long Time Shelterwood Staff & Father of Teens

The Sad Popularity of Bullying

I’ve read too many stories lately about bullying. A recent study showed that 23% of elementary students reported they had been picked on in the last month. It is believed that nearly 100,000 students carry handguns to school. A recent survey showed 77% of high school students felt bullying was destructive in their schools. Emotional, verbal and physical abuse occur way too often in a typical school day and chances are your teenager is affected in some way.

I remember the summer after 6th grade I was playing in my backyard in Fort Worth with some friends and we planned a campout under the trampoline that night. We were putting sheets over the trampoline to make a fort, when none other than the “snooty” kid from down the street came over to play. He was just kind of mean to most kids, but he and I had got along okay. He stood there for a while and then asked if he could spend the night with us. Kind, sensitive, godly me said, “no” and went back to working on the fort. That kid left, went home and told his mom that we wouldn’t let him spend the night. His mom called my mom and guess what? After a pretty tough lecture from my mom, he spent the night with us. I’m guessing it wasn’t much fun, but I think back to that incident and I think I was the one being the bully.

There should absolutely be no tolerance for kids that beat up kids, emotionally or verbally. School should be a place of protection and safety. But it is important, too, to look at the “whys” behind the perpetrators of abuse. Typically, they are kids that have been abused. They are kids that need to be loved and the abuse is their irrational attempt to be protected.

We need to teach our kids to report bullying and set their boundaries. But we also need to teach our kids to love. My mom taught me a good lesson that summer day. She taught me that it’s not okay to bully the bully. She taught me that rejecting the rejected only leads to more rejection. I ended up being pretty good friends with that kid, not best friends, but friends.

Teach your teen to set boundaries but teach your teen to love the unlovable. Of course, it’s difficult to teach what we don’t practice, so pray for a heart that loves and respects the unlovable.

Take control back from Manipulative Teens

Tired of being manipulated? Want to take control back from the manipulative teens in your home?  Find out what makes us as parents an especially easy mark for our own kids to take advantage of.

First (Knowledge) – our kids know us pretty well.  After all, they have been watching our every move for many years and have a deep understanding of our verbal and non-verbal cues.

Second (Predictability) – we tend to be pretty predictable.  As adults our values remain pretty consistent and therefore we rarely alter our opinions, comments, or expectations.  We tend to walk through disagreements and decisions with our kids using the same rationale, delivered in the same manner and even at similar times of the day.

Third (Instability) – as parents we are not sure where our kids stand.  Their undeveloped commitment to values makes them appear less stable and this flexibility gives them a tremendous edge during debate.  Unable to pin them down parents tend to put a lot of extra effort into explaining themselves.  It is like they are able to confuse us.  While we make a concerted effort to communicate in a logical, methodical, and calm manner the manipulative teen keeps his or her parents guessing as to how to lead in the home.

Manipulative teens might act confused and deliberately “misunderstand” what is being said, keeping parents off balance.  Unsure of how to get their point across parents will eventually become worn down, leading to ambivalence regarding outcomes.

Their ability to act confused gives them the upper hand in debate and usually takes the steam out of a parent’s argument.  Any time we are required to repeat ourselves the impact of our message is reduced.

Now that you understand how a manipulative teen is getting what they want through their use of the ‘Confusion Principle’ maybe it is time to use this same approach occasionally yourself.

The Principle of Confusion works so effectively because it destabilizes ones world and forces them to think at a deeper level. Jesus was a fantastic example of someone that always changed the pattern of interaction.  He used parables to change the paradigm of discussion and it always had the same effect.  It stopped the manipulative Pharisees in their tracks, forcing them to go away and think more deeply about themselves and their approach.

Watch this video to learn more.

Eliminate Fighting

Tired of the fighting?

Are you struggling to connect with your teen?  Tired of the fighting or the silent treatment and ready to eliminate fighting?

Learn how to take the energy of their anger and resistance and redirect it into change with these 5 simple steps.

Step 1 – Take a time out

Just like with a frantic team, a wise coach sometimes needs to call a time-out. The time out is for you as a parent to gain perspective – change the momentum of the debate – and reduce the tension in the game.

We have found that successful families have parents that take time out to assess their approach to parenting.

So ask yourself…
-what type of parent do I want to be?  
-how do I want to be remembered when my teen grows up?
-What fears & insecurities do I have about being a parent and how are they affecting my teen?

Step 2 – Reflect on your role

Identify which one of these three methods your teen is employing as their defense against your requests.

Rebellion

Distance

Compliance

The rebellious angry teen is so busy fighting against other people’s goals that they are unable to set their own and are thereby still being controlled by someone else.  Of course to be successful the rebel needs someone to rebel against. Unfortunately, it is easy for us as parents to fall into this role, playing the challenger and telling the rebel what to do. The more you catch mistakes and confront, the more defensive they will become. 

Other teens deal with demands by leaving either physically or emotionally.  This can be as subtle as turning on the television, tuning out of a conversation, or as dramatic as running away.  Those who distance themselves usually do so because they feel powerless and they don’t see any way to be themselves in a close relationship with the one they perceive as having all the power. These teens can appear to be very independent, but like the rebels, it is only a facade to protect their insecurity.

A compliant teens’ technique is much more subtle.  They are willing to maintain peace at any price because the fear of conflict is just too great. It might seem strange to suggest that obedience is a technique to gain freedom within the home, but often teens are willing to conform outwardly while holding different beliefs internally. The freedom that they gain is a freedom within the heart and mind. If there is ‘acting out’ it will be secretive or delayed until they are out of their parents’ view.

Step 3 – Simply listen

Now that you have identified your own fears as a parent and determined how your teen is masking their true struggle – it is time for the third step in your dynamic move.  And it is to simply listen.  Recognize your teen is in a difficult spot but don’t try to convince them of anything.  Confrontations will always lead to some form of resistance.  Your teen is busy trying to establish their independence and prove to you that they are capable.  So let go of the rope – it should not be a tug of war – the battle should not be with you.

Step 4 – Ask open-ended questions 

Your questions should help them consider their current choices with the future in mind and stimulate elaboration like, “How do you see this happening?” or “What do you think you will do?”

Even if they are hostile or confused, affirm their passion to find a solution to the problem.

Remember that you are trying to build a relationship with them.  It isn’t about getting them to do what you want.  Or proving you are right.

Step 5 – Provide motivation

Like a coach motivating their team your teen will need to be encouraged and cheered on. Teens often feel very alone and are trying to negotiate a lot of instability that they feel exists in their lives.  One of the best ways to create movement is through shared goals. Find simple goals you can agree on and work together towards those.

Believe in their abilities. Build on their strengths.

Teens don’t typically want to fail in life, but they get in binds and find it hard to escape. As a leader in your home, look for ways to release your teen by focusing on where they want to go – their hopes and aspirations – not their mistakes and past failures.