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Don't just talk to a child after an incident. Find the time to talk. Find the time to listen. Planned conversations are not nearly as good as spontaneous ones. Planned conversations are usually tense simply because of the time afforded to think and worry about it. "Is Dad mad at me for something?" "What did I do now?" Look for those peaceful moments.
Being a parent is like being an athlete. You may be good at it, but if you want to be great you have to learn all you can about your "opponent" and team he plays with. Yes, at times your teenager is an opponent. He is trying to define himself other than as the son of "the Smith's". He still wants to be your son, but at the same time become an independent self. Giving up what you are, to grow, is the hardest thing anyone can do. And every teenager has to do it. He has to learn how to join, be part of, and live by rules other than those of Team Family. He needs your guidance not your disapproval. He has to know that you understand there is turmoil in his mind and his sometimes expresses himself in ways he knows you don't like.
Besides understanding and building trust with your teenager, conversations allow you, in a non lecturing way, to impart your values, and, more importantly, how you decide courses in your life to live within those values you are expressing to him. Never push your values, just offer them. What you are really trying to instill in your teenager is good decision making. You can't watch over them all the time but with good decision making tools they will arrive at the "right" solution themselves more often than not. Trying to understand your teenager is not what they need. Don't psychoanalyze the event or the child. Ignore teenage shock tactics. Both will deflect you from what you really want to impart in them.
Learn about his culture, his friends, his enemies. In every available peaceful moment alone when you both are relaxed, take the time to talk and listen. Look for clues that he needs to talk. It's rare that a teenager will say "Let's talk", but they will give hints. The art of any conversation with your teenager is for them to formulate the moral not for you to preach it. You are there to give them the building blocks, your morals and methods of good decision making. A good minister of the faith does not preach, he shows you paths.
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