You know the expression… “you get more flies with honey than vinegar” – well the same is true with tweens and teens. You get more cooperation with a sweeter approach – INVITING COOPERATION rather than DEMANDING it.
Kids (and adults) tend to get their feathers ruffled when someone else “demands” or “commands” that they do something or stop doing something.
Imagine how you would feel if your spouse or significant other said, “I want you to clean up your room this minute!” or “You’ll do it because I said so!” You can only imagine the expletives that might fly in the wake of those comments.
Our tweens and teens respond the same way – although, hopefully without the expletives. When we order, correct and direct – demand cooperation or compliance – it evokes their natural fight or flight response. They fight back actively with back talk, attitude or storming up the stairs and slamming the door. Or, they fight back passively by totally ignoring the request. Or, they flee emotionally by retreating or giving up – “Why bother – they’ll never understand me.”
In each case of fight or flight, it’s their way of saying, “You may think you’re the boss of me, but you’re not;” or “Forget it, I give up – it’s just not worth it.”
To avoid the fight or flight response with your tween or teen and improve the likelihood of gaining cooperation, it’s best to avoid demanding compliance or barking orders. Instead, consider some of the following approaches:
- INVITE COOPERATION – “I have a ton of stuff to pack before we leave for the beach, anything you can do to help in the kitchen would be really appreciated.”
- MAKE AN OBSERVATION – Instead of nagging and reminding your kids to put the orange juice back in the fridge, simply make an observation – “The orange juice is still out.”
- LEAVE A NOTE – “Thanks for hanging up your wet towel and picking up your clothes before leaving the room! Love, The Management”
- USE “I FEEL” Statements – In a CALM moment, say “I feel disrespected when you speak to me with a condescending tone or when you ignore me. I’m working hard to speak and act respectfully to you and I would really appreciate it if you would treat me the same way.”
I’m not suggesting the approaches above will magically make your teen spring into action and volunteer assistance before being asked. However, shifting your tone from “demanding” to “inviting” WILL grab your child’s attention and with time will shift his behavior from battling to cooperating.
Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and mom to two teen boys. Her new book, If I Have to Tell You One More Time (Tarcher/Penguin) hits bookshelves on August 4, 2011. For free training resources on how to Get Teens to Listen without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling, visit www.PositiveParentingSolutions.com
Image: Dino Giordano from Flickr