Tuesday October 16 2018

PULSE 16/10/18

Continuing with the topic of keys to handling difficult teenagers…

3. In Mild Situations, Maintain Humor and Show Empathy

In relatively mild situations when a teenager is being difficult, show empathy by not over-reacting. Respond with a smile rather than a frown. Say to yourself with some humor: “there she goes again,” and then get on with your business. Stay above the din. Avoid telling a teenager what to do in trivial matters. Persistent unsolicited advice may be interpreted as picky at best, and a threat to the young person’s individuating selfhood. At worst this may make you the “enemy” or “other side”. Allow reasonable room for the teenager. To be sure, empathetic statements do not excuse unacceptable behaviour. The point is to remind yourself that many teenagers struggle within, and mindfulness of their experience can help you relate to them with more detachment and equanimity. 

4. Give Them a Chance to Help Solve Problems (If Appropriate)

Many difficult teenagers behave as they do because they don’t believe adults really listen. When you see a teenager upset or under some distress, offer the young person the option of talking with you. Say, for example, “I’m here to listen if you want to talk, okay?” Make yourself available and remind the teenager of this from time to time, but don’t insist on it. Use the “pull” strategy and let the young person come to you if and when he’s ready. 

In appropriate situations when you’re communicating with a teenager about her or his experience, listen without comment (at least for a while). Just be there and be a “friend”, no matter what your actual role is in relation to the young person. Allow the teenager to feel at ease disclosing with you.

Before offering any input, ask the teenager if she’s willing to hear it. For example, say “Do you want to hear what I think about this? If not, it’s okay. I’m still here to listen.” Again, use the “pull” strategy and let the teenager want to hear your feedback when she’s ready.

When talking over issues, include the young person in discussions on problems and solutions. Solicit input. Ask, for example, “Given the desired outcome, how would you handle this issue?” See if they come up with any constructive ideas. Whenever possible, avoid insisting on a single course of action. Examine several reasonable options with the teenager’s input, and arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangement.

On the other hand, if what you hear are mostly blame, complaints, and criticisms, don’t agree or disagree. Simply say you’ll keep what they said in mind, and get on with what you need to get done, including the deployment of consequence.   

5. In Serious Situations, Deploy Consequence(s) to Lower Resistance, and Compel Respect and Cooperation

When a teenager insists on violating reasonable rules and boundaries, and won’t take “no” for an answer, deploy consequence.

The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most powerful skills we can use to “stand down” a challenging person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the difficult individual, and compels her or him to shift from resistance to cooperation.