Get into their world. The world that teens are growing up in is not the world in which we grew up. In case you ever doubt that, here is what author and speaker Josh McDowell has said on the subject: “The average teenage boy is exposed to more *** stimulation on the way to school than his grandfather was on Saturday night when he was looking for it. " The next four suggestions are more specific ways to get into their world:
Listen to their music. When I begin to work with a teenager in my counseling office, one of the first things I have them do is bring in a couple of their favorite CDs and we listen to them. Other people in my office building wonder what the heck is going on but that is OK because it keeps me in touch with what is being pumped into their heads all day long. As a parent of a teen, you especially need to know what is going into their heads.
Watch what they watch. Not only do you need to watch the TV programs and movies your teen is watching, you also need to watch the commercials and other advertising aimed at kids. What is the message behind the commercial? Most are something like this: “You are a loser without this product, and you will be cool and popular with this product. " Our kids are being taught to be non-thinking consumers from day one. Why do you think they call it programming?
Walk the halls. Go to school one day. Take a walk through the halls between classes. I can just about guarantee you that you will be surprised by what you see if you have not yet taken this walk.
Screen time. Here is another example of how much has changed. When you and I were coming up, our parents had to practically drag us inside for dinner. Now parents almost have to force kids outside away from the screens. This is one of the biggest battles going on in many families today. It always amuses me when I talk with parents who complain about how much time their kid spends playing video games. I usually ask the parents if they have ever played the games with their kid. Parents usually look at me like I'm nuts. Not only do you need to know what is going into their heads, just like music and TV, you need to know just how addictive the experience can be. I have a secret suspicion that some parents don't want to play because they do not want to get beat.
Teen Room Makeover. It seems like just about every night on TV something is being “made over, " from houses all the way to people! So I thought, why not have a Teen Room Makeover? Get together with your teen, clean everything out, do some painting, maybe some new furniture. You could find some magazines for ideas and examples. This accomplishes at least three things:
You get to clean up and rearrange what could be a disaster area.
If handled right, doing this with your teen can be a time of bonding and fun.
While you are cleaning and rearranging, you may find some things that you did not know about. If you do not find anything that is a problem, that's great. If you do find something that is a problem, now you know about it and can then do something about it.
Vitamin NO. Every now and then, I work with a teen who needs a good dose of vitamin NO. Many parents have not figured out how to administer this vitamin and are either uncomfortable or afraid to do it. Once given the suggestion and “permission, " most parents can learn. You have to be prepared for the teen to not like it, and test you to see if you mean it. That is OK though, because a good healthy dose of vitamin NO can eventually cure a raging sense of entitlement.
Vitamin YES. At the same time, teens also need a healthy dose of vitamin YES. Once you have gotten clear on what to say no to, and strong enough to say it, then your yes can really mean something. I tell the teens with whom I work that parents do not stay up late at night trying to create new ways to say no and make your life miserable. Parents like to say yes - to good choices.
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