- Family and Parenting
Get Your Teenager to Listen to You Without Saying a Word To Them
Building Self-Confidence in Your Teen
Thirty-something years ago when I was a pre-teen, I overheard my Mom talking to her friend, Irene, on the phone. "Honey is the only one of the kids that never asks me for anything." She said. Looking back, I imagine times were tough and she and Irene discussed this to try to figure out ways to make things easier. I never told her that I overheard her conversation; but, I felt proud that I was the one that hadn't burdened her. In fact, I felt so proud that I made it my mission to never ask her for anything again. Little did my Mom know that the lady down the street paid me fifty cents a day to go to the corner store and get her rolling papers for her. She rolled her own tobacco; and she must have smoked a lot because I always had change in my pocket. When I turned ten, I began babysitting for my nieces and nephews and probably had more money on me than my Mom had on her. Of course, there were times that I needed to ask for a new outfit to wear to a class trip or something along those lines but it hurt me to ask; so, I did everything I could to avoid it.
Why do I remember that phone call so vividly? The reason I remember she was talking to Irene must mean that I answered the phone. But, the reason I remember the statement that my Mom made is because it changed who I was. Prior to the call, I didn't ask her for anything because I had everything I needed; and I used my own money for things I wanted without even a thought as to why I didn't ask my mom for more. Although, I never believed we were poor or even gave a thought to whether or not we were, after the call, I became aware that money didn't come easy for my parents, and that supporting ten kids must have been exhausting. As a result, I became a much more thoughtful young girl which brings me to:
Tip #1 When telling your child how proud you are of them for doing this or that tends to go in one ear and out the other, try phoning a friend while your child is within earshot (be sure they are not wearing headphones). After a minute or so into your conversation, say your child's name; and, be specific, and above all, be sincere when telling your friend what it was that your child did that made you feel proud or happy or tickled.
The trick to successfully building your child's confidence is to never, ever let them know that your phone conversation was planned. Don't go overboard. Keep it to one special attribute per phone conversation; and don't make those phone calls happen every day. Once every couple of months should suffice.
My sixteen year old son, Michael, hates when I brag about him in front of his face. It embarrasses him; but, when he's nearby and he doesn't realize I'm aware that he's listening in to me talking to somebody else about how I felt when he did something, I get a glimpse of his smile out of the corner of my eye. And, it tickles my heart.
Getting Your Teen To Do An Extra Chore
Michael's pretty good about getting his regular chores done. However, when I ask him to do something out of the ordinary, he pretends he didn't hear me; or, he rushes out the door; or, he gives me some lame excuse and says he'll do it later. After asking him two to three times a week for months to carry our Christmas tree and decorations back down to the storage area didn't work, I had two choices; either I had to do it myself; or, I had to figure out another way to get him to get it done. I chose the latter, which leads me to
Tip #2 When your teen ignores all your requests for help and you begin to dread the sound of your own pleas for assistance, write your teen a note before he or she gets up for the day. In the note, be concise on what you need done. List steps to follow in completing the task. State a time that it has to be done by. If you want to pay your teen for the task, leave the money with the note. State in the note why it is urgent that this is done on time. Say "Please" and "Thank You" and an "I love you" never hurts. Leave the house and don't return until after the completion time has passed.
The tricks I used to get Michael to listen to my unspoken words was:
1. I crept into his room before he woke up; and, I took his phone; and then I brought it down to the storage area and placed it in the area that I needed him to put the decorations.
2. I put all the things I wanted him to bring downstairs close to the door while still leaving an escape route in case of fire.
3. In the note, I let him know that I had brought a couple of boxes down to help him out; and that, I must have left his phone down there in the area where I wanted him to put everything.
4. I called a friend and invited her to dinner. Hence, my urgency for the task to be done which was stated in my letter.
5. I called him a half hour before the time frame was up to make sure he had done what I asked of him. He said that he had but I gave him an extra hour just to be sure he had enough time.
Lo and behold, when I got home, all the Christmas things were in storage; and, I had five or six months before I had to comprise a plan to get him to bring them back up.