Teenagers who don’t listen to simple requests to change their behavior can be thought of as toddlers in big bodies. You want to avoid a power struggle at all costs, because it is hard to “win” and can lead to more conflict.
It is a good idea to try to establish positive relationships with children before you have to ask them to do things they might not want to do. Spend quality, individual time with them everyday, even if it is for only 10 minutes. If you have an unpleasant incident with a child, reach out and try to establish a positive alliance.
- Talk about the reason for your request and include a statement like, “I am sorry I have to ask you to ________.”
- If children and teens don’t follow your requests, sympathize with their wish to keep up the behavior: “I know you really want to do ________, and I am sorry it can’t work out. I can give you five minutes to (leave, stop the behavior, etc.).”
- Talk out loud about your thoughts. “I am thinking I let you know that you have to stop, but somehow it seems too hard for you to listen to me. I guess my choice is to ________.” Or, “I wish I could think of another way.” You don’t have to talk directly to the child/teen, you can just talk about your choices – but you do need to follow through on what you said you would do.
- You can ask the child/teen what they might suggest after explaining the problem. For example, “The baby is sleeping, and we need to be quiet – that is our problem. What do you think we can do quietly together?” Acknowledge your child’s ideas and try to work it out together.
- In general, use a positive approach and avoid any kind of threatening tactics, however mild. Avoid taking things away or using physical discipline of any kind.
The content of this post was developed in collaboration between Solid Ground’s Broadview program staff with consultant Lenore Rubin, PhD. Lenore is a child psychologist and an expert in helping children and families to thrive after experiencing trauma.
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