this is a guest post by Chuck Hill who is a retired University of California administrator and mediator. He is a board member of the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center and mediates with many married and never married parents referred by the Juvenile and Civil courts. You can learn more about Chuck at http://www.cahillmediation.
Suppose you’re driving down one of our Interstates when you suddenly feel the urge to use a restroom.
You could pull over immediately and risk trying to find a safe and private place or you could hold on for the nearest rest area or filling station. Most of us will exercise a little control and patience and choose the second option.
When our teenagers misbehave, and it’s not a dire emergency endangering life or limb, it may serve us well to exercise a little control and patience before responding.
I like to think of it this way; “I know a lot more about being 14 than he knows about being 36.”
So, if I take my time and think about it, I can more than likely come up with an approach that will help resolve the issue rather than further inflame it.
Case in point: my wife would often come home after a long work day and become very upset and agitated to find the kitchen so messy with dirty dishes, utensils, etc. that she would feel compelled to have our son, who had dirtied it, clean it or clean it herself before she could begin to prepare the evening meal.
This continued on a regular basis as he arrived home from school and/or athletic practice a couple of hours ahead of her and famished.
So, there I am trying to catch the evening news after my own workday and this loud, unpleasant bickering would repeat itself like clockwork almost every evening.
Determined to find a solution better than yelling and bickering, I decided to think about it for a day or two and see if I couldn’t come up with something that would make the point while keeping the family peace.
I wound up using one of those old TV tray tables with little plastic clips for attaching tube legs. I removed the legs and stacked all the dirty kitchen stuff on the tray.
Next, I took the tray upstairs, pulled back the covers on my son’s bed, placed the tray in the bed, and threw the covers back over it. I still smile when I think about how he came downstairs that evening with the tray in hand and this big toothy grin.
He cleaned and put away all the dishes and utensils and not a word was said by anyone. It was abundantly clear that if the kitchen was left in that condition again, the same remedy would apply.
Granted, that was not a very hygienic approach and may not work for your family. I cite it only as an example of how a little patience and creativity helped save the evening for our family.
Again, as adults we know a lot more about being 13, 14, 15 or whatever teen age than they know about being our age, so with a little thought rather than immediate reaction, we can craft solutions that work while preserving the peace. And who knows, once in a while creative solutions might even impart a bit of humor.