Responding Versus Reacting [Guest Post]

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Will it make a difference in connecting with our Teens?

One of the biggest issues I hear from parents that comes up time after time is: my teen isn’t connected to me; we can’t seem communicate.

When your child becomes a teen, there is going to be a healthy pulling away that is very normal for teens to do.  The problem is that if you don’t have a healthy way of communicating with each other before this happens, it’s going to be more difficult to institute one during these possibly turbulent teenage years.  Not to say that it can’t be done, it will just be a little more challenging.

If you’re looking to create a more connected communicative relationship with your teen, we have to look at if you are Responding or Reacting to your children.

Lets look at the difference: Reacting Versus Responding

Reacting is something you do without thinking and it comes from a place inside of you that has been triggered.- if your teen does something that makes you have anger, fear, or sadness, and you react from that place.  They have come home after curfew and this makes you angry, and you immediately say “WHERE WERE YOU? YOU’RE LATE, HAVE YOU BEEN DRINKING, YOU’RE GROUNDED, GO TO YOUR ROOM!”

When you react to your teens, your behavior shuts them down; you leave them no room for explanation, communication and most importantly no room for learning.  They go to their room and guess what they are thinking about? No, not about being late and disappointing you, they are thinking about how much they hate you and how you don’t understand what it is like to be a teenager.  You have just stunted their learning experience about a very important issue.

Responding feels completely different, their behavior may still trigger us but we understand that this is what teens do; they are exercising their free will and learning about who they are.  In realizing this we can stay calm, and handle things differently so we may be available to help them learn more about themselves.

Our response would look more like this:  “I noticed you are late, is everything okay?”  “Yes, everything is okay, thanks Mom, we were at Katie’s house and Mike was leaving and slammed his hand in his car door and we helped him and on my way home I went to call you and realized my cell phone was dead. “  “Oh my is Mike okay?”  “Yes, he had to go to the hospital.”  “Well I hope he is going to be alright.”  “Me too, Mom.” “ When you are late I get so worried, if you could please check your phone before the time you are due home and then figure out a way to call me if your phone is dead, this would help me not worry and build a more trusting relationship between us.  I want to allow you the freedoms you want, and I also want to build a trusting, respectful relationship with you.”

This type of communication allows for both parties to be heard and for you to be able to go further and teach your teens about respect and trust, in a way that they will be able to hear you.

By not reacting your teen won’t be afraid of your response and be able to communicate with you honestly and openly.  Responding to your teen instead of Reacting allows you to teach your teen about the issue at hand.  They aren’t in defense mode and they will be able to hear what you are saying because you haven’t backed them up against a wall.  So, here are some simple tips to communicate through Responding not Reacting.

1)   No matter how angry you are don’t yell and react, this only shuts them down.

2)   Before you speak to your teen, think about what would be the best way to communicate with them; this helps you to not react.

3)   Ask yourself why you are so upset and reacting and look at your issues around it. (You may have reason to be angry but you still don’t have to react.)

4)   Remember what your job is as a parent, to teach your teens, if they are shut down they can’t hear you.

5)   Remember this is a part of teens learning their independence and what works out there in the world.

6)   Explain why you need them to show up a certain way that makes sense; don’t just say because I told you to.

7)   Remember they are teenagers and learning what the boundaries are and how the world works.

This post is by Debra Beck Author of My Feet Aren’t Ugly, A Girl’s Guide To Loving Herself From The Inside Out

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