coaching, homework, teens, Working with teens

Your teen and you: No 3 – Pay attention to the small print

When you create a firm agreement with your teen about anything, including homework, curfews, chores, and polite behaviour, always pay attention to the small print.

Take a little time and remember why you want to negotiate new behaviours with your teen. why you want things to change in your house. When you are sure that change needs to happen – it will.

You both need to know exactly what behaviours will keep or break the agreement. In other words, you both have to agree which behaviours they are to stop and which they are to begin or increase, and by how much, so that you will both notice when your teen is keeping or not keeping the agreement

How do you define exactly what your teen is required to do? It is too vague to both agree, for example, that your teen will do homework or household chores every day. You both need to decide on when, how much, and what they will do. The agreement should include all the factors you both need to know around time, amount, and exactly what work will be done. For example you both might agree that they get on with specific study or homework tasks or household chores within five minutes of being asked, or at an agreed-upon time, and that they work five days a week on housework or homework for at least one hour.

To ask for ‘respect’ from your young adult is also too vague (and think about how respect goes both ways and the agreement can also include you as well). For example ‘respectful behaviours’ might be that you both talk to each other in a quiet voice, or that you both show that you are listening by stopping what you are doing as soon as possible and then facing the person talking.

Perhaps your teen is misusing your car and you want them to treat your car ‘carefully’. Describe exactly which behaviours are ‘careful’ and which are not. You might want them to be ‘on time’ when you take them somewhere, so explain what ‘on time’ means to you and when they will be ‘late’. Perhaps you want them to complete ‘all chores each day’ so describe exactly what ‘complete’ means and what ‘all chores’ and ‘each day’ require from them.

Any vagueness in your agreement allows you both room for confusion, disagreement, and cheating. Clear, exact, and detailed descriptions of exactly what the agreement means, allows both you and your young adult to know exactly when the agreement made between you is kept, and when it is not kept.

Keep the time you are talking with your young adult brief, and then they will pay closer attention to what you say. Have you noticed that some adults talk too long on subjects they find important? I think we all do this at times, often without realising we have. I know I still do, especially when I’m enthusiastic or concerned about something. You may also talk too long to your young adult at times, and they may be using a few useful strategies to manage their boredom or frustration while you are talking.

The ‘switch off’ is the most common and politest strategy used by many. Your teen will seem to be listening attentively, while they have actually stopped listening to you after two or three sentences, and have began to think about something else. I have often been fooled when a student uses this strategy on me.

Sometimes a student looks so convincingly attentive that I don’t immediately notice that they have ‘switched off’. Your young adult ‘switches off’ for what they believe are very good reasons. Perhaps they have heard it all before, feel uncomfortable with your intense and emotional tone, don’t agree with you, feel blamed by you, or just don’t want to do what you want them to do.

My last post gives you some useful tips about how to talk with your teen so that they don’t ‘switch off’ on you. 

I’m working in partnership with you the reader and I like to know what you are thinking! Please feel free to write your thoughts, questions, and comments at the bottom of this page. 

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