What Does A Changed Heart Look Like?
How Teens Learn Self-Government
by Nicholeen Peck
Starting Self-Government With Teens
While in England I met with many families. Some had small children and some had teenaged children. The parents I met with, who had teens, were anxious to help their teens have a change of heart. It seems that, much like here in the United States, teens in the United Kingdom are becoming disconnected from parents and are often not excited about doing what it will take to unify the relationship. Multiple parents shared with me their concern that in the UK children seem to think of parents as the enemy.
So, what does it look like, when a teenager who is in the habit of disconnecting, learns about self-government?
After years of visiting with families and teaching parents and children of all ages the principles and skills needed to learn self-government, I have noticed a common response in teens.
Children under age twelve often find learning the TSG skills exciting and even fun. They enjoy role playing the skills with their parents and quickly see the benefit of learning self-government. However, teenaged children are often very resistant to change and do not get excited about learning better ways to communicate with parents. They are often out of the habit of communicating with their parents at all.
Teaching self-government to teens and teaching it to small children will usually look different.
When the conversation of behaviors and communication comes up, teens can be very reluctant to discuss with parents. This type of discussion requires honesty to be productive, and a disconnected relationship is often a dishonest relationship. Even if a teen hasn't told a lie to parents, keeping his life a secret is a lie of omission. So, don't be surprised if your teenager isn't excited to talk about self-government with you.
In fact, at first many teens feel hostile and try to make excuses. They especially try to not make eye contact if possible. They often will try to start an argument or try to make their parents out to be villains. They will often try to use manipulation to make parents question their ability to teach the teen anything, let alone self-government. Teens are smart, and can often have a history of knowing how to 'throw parents off' or manipulate them when they are trying to correct them or discuss with their behaviors with them. So be prepared for it and don't be fooled.
What To Do When Talking To Your Teen About Self-Government And A New Plan
Make sure you feel love for them. Look into their hearts and send love to them while you are talking to them. This also means you will make an effort to understand them. Understanding does not mean pitying them. It means acknowledging how they might feel or what they might be thinking.
Don't take their emotions personally. When they become upset or agitated it is a sign that you are doing something they need. A dishonest person always resists honesty and change. So, take the anger or manipulation as a good sign. You are going to help your child live more free and happy by teaching them the new skills and then following through with what you taught them about how you would handle it. Acknowledge their emotion and then move on. It sounds like this, “I know you don't want to talk about skills and communication, but this won't take too much time if we can both focus…”
Ask them what they want. Often when I visit with families, I always ask the youth and the parents what they want from the relationship. Youth get to answer first. Then, the parent shares what they want the relationship to feel like etc. This is the vision part of making a change. The youth needs to see that they will get more of what they want if they make some changes or learn some skills.
Make the plan. Make a plan that gets everyone what they want and make it measurable. I had one teenager once tell me that she didn't like the plan and wouldn't abide by it. I told her I was open to a new plan if she could propose something that would get everyone what they wanted and was measurable. The four basic skills and scheduled daily practice times etc. are measurable.
Make a positive consequence. Teens who are approaching self-government from a selfish perspective will be more motivated if they have something to work toward. So, setting up a positive consequence that they will care about is always a good idea.
Trust that they are processing. Teens don't like to process their thoughts in an obvious way. They often hide their true feelings or the real desires of their heart. So, just because your teenager isn't excited about the skills on the surface, don't worry. They are processing. The role plays and consistent correction helps them choose happiness. Trust that they 'get it' and really do want a good relationship. Trust that they want to make a positive change in their lives. They just don't often want to admit that their parent had a good idea. So, give them time to learn to like their heart in its new place.
No matter where teenagers are, they often behave similarly. So, even though I don't know each teenager personally, I do know how to help them decide to change. And, after teaching for a month in the UK I see even more clearly that teenagers all over the world have the same needs.
Love from parents
Rules and skills
A vision of something better
A plan for success, and
A consistent parent who is willing to correct them, even when the teen isn't happy about the consequences.
May God Bless You All, Where Ever You Are, As You Raise Your Teenagers Into Happy Adults!