For many of you, the term “BLESSING” is not a common term. My definition for giving a BLESSING is when you use words to hold a mirror up to someone’s soul and help them see themselves the way you see them. In my opinion, it is THE PARENTING SUPER POWER.
For our last session we have two quick lessons on how you can UNLEASH YOUR BLESSING to your teenager.
Many parents believe that technology is something to be scared of when it comes to their teenagers. The truth is that technology itself is neutral. It is how technology is used that determines its consequences.
So technology might seem like an “out of control beast”, but it doesn’t have to be that scary. I have invited my friend, Brian Housman, who wrote Tech Savvy Parenting to help us develop healthy patterns in our homes that will give us a head start in taming the technology beast.
There is no way that we will be able to cover every part of this topic in one session, but Brian will help us get a great start. We have 4 great presents for our subscribers this month:
No family is an island.
It is so strategic and smart for you as a parent to Invite a Third Party into your family to help you when you get stuck.
This month I am helping our Parentzilla subscribers put a plan together to bring reinforcements into their adolescent journey.
I recently watched the Hatfield and McCoys miniseries from the History Channel. The acting was superb and the storyline compelling, but it left me with a feeling of unease. The conflict between the two families started over a supposed stolen pig, but after generations of fighting the two families couldn’t even remember the source of the conflict.
One get’s the feeling that the conflict between the two families escalated beyond control before either family really knew what was happening. Their distrust led to anger, led to slander, led to physical violence, led to death.
Carrying family conflict from one day to the next only compounds the issue until you eventually can’t even remember why you’re angry to begin with. Your situation is probably not on the level of the Hatfield and McCoy’s, but it will continue to tear at the foundation of your relationship with your teen if you don’t address it. If you are tired of the “winner takes all” approach to parenting, here are a few steps to help you let go of conflict in your family and start a cycle of healing.
1. Apologize first. Even if your kid is the one who started the conflict, once you are both raising your voices and rolling your eyes, you are both going to have to apologize. You set the example by seeking forgiveness first.
2. Listen before reacting. The biggest complaint teens have of their parents is that parents don’t listen. Whether it is true or not, it is still their perception. Change that by listening to what they have to say before reacting. Ask open-ended questions that allows them to share their feelings without fear of punishment. Show a genuine respect for what they share.
3. Respond with truth and love. Let facts dictate the conversation; not emotions. In conflict, emotions can be used to manipulate and confuse. If the situation is going to call for punishment, then do it with love and with your teen’s best interest at heart. Don’t punish because you are angry or to get the conversation over.
4. Avoid extreme language. No I’m not talking about four-letter-words. I mean phrases such as, “You never…” or “You always…” You don’t like them and neither does your teen. This is the easiest way for a conflict to escalate. It quickly puts the other person on the defensive and retaliation is almost unavoidable.
5. Understand their personality. Many times conflicts can happen because of something that is out of balance in your teen’s (or your) personality. The time of day, food eaten, sleep pattern, and temperament can all effect how your teen responds in conflict. Try to take an honest assessment, before jumping in to resolving the conflict. None of these factors mean your teen (or you) is not responsible for their actions, but it doesn’t bring understanding of how it could have happened.
6. Pray before talking. I can’t tell you how many family conflicts we’ve had quickly resolved because we prayed before diving into the situation. Prayer helps quiet your heart and mind and enter the conversation with calmness and compassion. It also helps you see less of yourself and more of your teen’s perspective.
For some of us resolving conflict in a healthy way is difficult because of our own baggage growing up. Perhaps you were raised in a home that had a “take no prisoners” mentality when it came to conflict. Win at all costs was the name of the game. You learned early on that your job was to watch your own back, defend yourself, and never back down. But if you are willing to develop new habits and value loving more than being declared right, then your whole family wins.
Brian Housman has worked with families for more than twenty years. He is the author of “Engaging Your Teen’s World” and “Tech Savvy Parenting” and a regular contributor to parenting magazines. You can follow him on Twitter or his blog at www.awaketolife.org.
As a parent of a teenager I am sure you have experienced frustration in having even a simple conversation.
Getting more than a one or two word answer from them seems to be nearly impossible! Most parents just accept this as the “teenage phase” as their adolescents are tying to assert themselves and figure out who they are.
This is, in part, accurate. But a brief study on the relationship between the brain and communication shows that something else might be going on!
We are each created with three parts to our brain:
- Reptilian Brain – this is present from birth and it’s purpose is to continually be scanning for danger and threats. It has automatic functions and never sleeps!
- Mammalian Brain – this is typically developed by age 6-7. This part of the brain sends alerts to the Reptilian brain regarding what to do when potential danger/alerts come its way. This portion of the brain helps to calm us down. This is what we tap into when we are developing coping skills. This part of the brain is very rationalizing (our actions) but not rational.
- Neo-Cortex Brain – begins to develop in later childhood and carries through to adolescence and adulthood. The purpose of this part of the brain is to modify and moderate impulse behaviors. This portion of the brain believes that it makes 90% of the daily decisions but this is wrong.
The Reptilian and Mammalian brain allows our responses to get big in order to scare the threat away or small in order to avoid the potential threat. Essentially these two portions of the brain are our default. This drives our behavior, our thoughts, our actions and our responses to people in every situation without taking into consideration that Neo-Cortex portion of our brain (which helps us function as an adolescent and adult).
The greatest threat that the Reptilian brain is scanning for is to find the answer to the question “do I belong?” What research has found is that without people, we cannot survive. We were created for relationship. Everything we SAY on a day to day basis, in any situation, is said to get one of six needs met: Belonging, Autonomy, Safety/Security, Self Expression, Purpose/Significance and Connection.
Conflict comes between people when we are not getting a need met, or when the needs we are looking to be met are different than what the other person is trying to get met. For instance, if I, as a parent, am trying to get my need for connection met and my teenager is trying to get their need for autonomy met, it could create significant conflict, even an argument!
Unfortunately, when we are not getting our needs met, we scheme as to how we can get them met. Maybe it’s picking a fight, accusing, nit-picking, blaming, playing the victim, making a big deal out of something that doesn’t need to be/blowing things out of proportion, etc.
An interesting piece to this is that in conversation, arguments and conflict we often use questioning as a tactic to build our case, accuse and/or prove a point. Questions raise anxiety by 40%! Remember the bottom ⅔ of our brain is scanning for threat…a threat could be as simple as searching for the right answer to a question.
So in the mind of your teen, questions become a trap. All questions can be turned into statements. These statements reduce anxiety and allows your teen to feel safe (even in the midst of an argument!) How was your day? What did you learn? can feel very direct and asked hoping to get a specific answer/piece of information rather than seeking the heart of your teen. Tell me how your day was… Tell me what you learned… These statements allow some of our deepest needs to be met.
For the bottom ⅔ of our brain (the Reptilian and Mammalian portions), listening is one of the primary things we can do to reassure that sense of belonging. The true communication skill to learn is finding words to say that the receiving person will hear. Words are a way that we hide. When we truly listen our greatest need of belonging is being met and the walls of defense are taken down. The way that someone learns how to listen is to be listened to.
Finally, in the midst of conversation or conflict, it’s important to remember that it often doesn’t matter what the INTENT of the statement was, what matters is the effect it had on the person receiving it. Respond to the effect.
Laura Anderson, MMFT is a Marriage and Family Counselor in Nashville, TN who has worked with teenagers for 12 years. If you are in the Nashville area you can find her here
This is such a great tool for our subscribers. You can use this Connection Tool to list the “Lines of Communication” that we discussed in Bridge Builder 4. We made it really pretty so you can hang it up in your house and refer to it when you need to. Just click “more” if you are a subscriber to download it!