… it’s Listening …
Here is my column from The Sunday Province, Vancouver:
Q: My daughter is 15 and went wild over Christmas. She got invited to a party at the start of the holidays and that led to several other parties and bad behaviour (drinking and who knows what else). I know it’s because she’s trying to fit in and is now thrilled to be in with the popular crowd. How can my common sense compete with that? What’s worrying me is that she will not get back on track now that she’s in with this wilder crowd. Is there anything I can do to stop her from sinking deeper in with this wild crowd?
A: There’s a bravado that comes with ruling the school and that bravado is almost always mistaken for confidence. That supposed confidence is what other students are attracted to, especially those without much confidence of their own. Of course, that bravado isn’t really confidence. We adults know that but teenagers rarely do.
At this point, rather than focusing on the negatives, focus on the positives by building up her confidence. You do this by listening, listening, listening.
I know I’m a broken record with this listening business but it’s the No. 1 parenting skill. Actually, it’s the No. 1 people skill. A good listener strives to understand and respect others and never criticizes or judges. Of course, it’s hard to do this when your teen tells you he or she is drinking but once you understand the power of effective listening, it will be easier to accomplish.
Tell your daughter that you would truly like to understand why she enjoys her current friends. Promise not to lecture or judge and say you just want to get to know her better. If you’re lucky and she opens up to you, be careful to not roll your eyes or even flinch. Just listen with compassion. This will hopefully encourage her to open up to you more and more, which will enable you to offer suggestions, tell her about your own childhood insecurity issues, etc.
Once teens feel heard and understood, they are more likely to make wise decisions.
This is more of a topic for a book than a column, but the above should at least help to open up the doors of communication, which is the first step in helping your teen head in the right direction. Remember that just because she’s making poor decisions today, that doesn’t mean she won’t make better ones tomorrow.
Lisa Bunnage is a parenting coach in the Vancouver area: bratbusters.com