The 1-2-3-4-5 system
Think about this method I came up with (it may work for you, it may not). There are 5 different ways you can communicate with your teen (or any age group, really). I call them the 5 levels. Level 1 is DO NOTHING. Level 2 is LISTEN. Level 3 is GIVE ADVICE. Level 4 is HELP. Level 5 is HANDLE.
How do these levels work? I’ll explain.
Level 1 is do nothing. Yes, I said it. Do absolutely nothing. Let them work it through on their own, but you still be aware of the situation. Ever walk past your child while they’re in conversation about a problem? Some require you to do nothing but be aware of the situation. They can figure out some things for themselves.
Level 2 is listening. If your daughter comes home upset and wants to talk, listen. Just listen. Then ask if she just wanted to vent or if she needs your help in any way. Usually, kids will ask for help if they need it (you may or may not actually hear the question within all of the drama and/or crying). If you don’t hear them ask for help, ask if they want you to help and ask HOW. Stick to what they ask (unless it’ll really, really hurt them if you don’t) so that you’ll build trust. If they need more help than they’re asking for, gently insert a suggestion.
Level 3 is advice. Sometimes they know what the problem is, but may not know what the solution is. Sometimes they know what the solution is, but need to know where to start. Be sure to give them what they need, but not too much more. Otherwise you may see the glazed over look (they’ve mentally checked out), the blank stare (you’ve overwhelmed them with too much information) or you may hear, “Mooooom, I’m not stupid.” or “Daaad, geez! I’m not a baby.”
Level 4 is help. Wouldn’t it be great if they came out and asked for it? Well, when they do, make sure you’re ready. However, like any good manager, find out what they really want and exactly how to deliver. Also, do it in such a way so that nothing is lost and no injury occurs (if possible).
Level 5 is handle it. Some things require your intervention (and them getting out of the picture). Whether it’s speaking to a teacher on your child’s behalf or calling the cops, there are situations that they should just stay out of.
All this advice is great, but the biggest thing (as I said before) is knowing how and when to do it. That’s where you come in. You must know your child and know yourself. You may not be the person to do each one of these steps. Sometimes as a mom I can’t handle some situations. Once my oldest had to go to the ER and had to have hand surgery. I couldn’t do it. That’s Dad territory 1000%. Take the middle child to the ER 3 times in one week at 2am because he was wheezing and wouldn’t stop? I could do that with no problem. Grandparents may need to step in, aunts and uncles may be the go-to for some scenarios. Don’t count out friends, community members, church members, mentors, teachers, etc. It takes a village! – How NOT to Kill Your Kids Before They Turn 18, Tonya Joyner
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