Article Summary:How to deal with teenagers by understanding the reasons behind their actions, positive or negative.
Your teenager has a good excuse for everything he or she does, even hurting you, their brothers and sisters, drinking, doing drugs, and failing school. This good excuse, or positive intention is what is driving the behaviour. The negative behaviour won't change until the positive intention has been recognized and satisfied in some way.
There are two basic things that you need to believe before you even begin to try and figure out what is driving your child's behavior. First you must believe that we do have a good intention behind every behavior. This will certainly help in the process of determining what positive intention your child is trying to satisfy as otherwise you may appear incongruent- when what ... you are thinking, saying and doing doesn't match up. You are pretending and your teenager can spot a phony a mile away. Also you must believe that the meaning of your communication is the response you get back. For example, if you don't like the response your child gives you then you must be willing to change the method of communication until you get what you want. Let me explain the basic process.
1. Setting yourself up as an ally ...
You want to find out what your child's positive intention is. That requires that you communicate in a positive manner or he will shut you down. In any communication with your teenager he or she has four possible options. He can see you as an ally and open up to you, she can become defensive, retreat or counter-attack. Your first challenge is to approach her in such a way that you get the first response. That is why you cannot blame, judge, criticize or attach a negative intention to the behaviour or communication. You don't want to be perceived as the enemy. Instead you are an ally and they need to believe that you think they are a good person; they are separate from their behaviour and you are here to work with them.
2. Finding the positive intention ...
In order to find their often-unconscious positive intention, you can put yourself in their shoes or talk to them in order to get an answer to the following question:
- What does this behavior do for me (you)?
- How does this behavior benefit me (you)?
- What do I (you) want to happen when I (you) do this behavior?
Often there are several positive intentions all embedded inside one another. Once you have solicited one answer, follow it up with the same question, "And what does that do for you"? Keep asking that question for each intention until you think you have an idea what their positive intention or reason or purpose is.
3. Checking it out ...
Once you think that you know what the purpose behind their behavior might be, check it out with them by asking, "So, what you were really wanting by (behavior) was (positive intention)?"
4. Now that you know ...
Once you think that you know what the positive intention is behind their behavior, act as if it were true. Tell him or her that you appreciate the fact that they were trying to do something positive and offer to help in any way that you can. Comment on the fact that this intention is certainly more consistent with the kind of person that he is than the negative behavior. Work with him to come up with a new behavior that is consistent with the kind of person he is and which will satisfy his positive intention.
So what does this actually look like in real life?
Josh has broken into his sister's bedroom, taken the money that she has been saving and gone out with his friends. On the one hand you believe that we always have a good reason behind everything that we do, on the other hand, you are absolutely furious with him.
Give yourself time to cool down before you try to find out what positive intention he has behind his behavior. You have to distance yourself from the incident and become an observer. Once you are able to switch to observer mode, it is time to tackle Josh. Start by stating the facts in a conversational manner. "I know that you went into Brittany's room and borrowed her savings". "That is a pretty unusual thing for you to do, don't you think?" "What did taking her money do for you?" Notice that you didn't ask him why he did it. That is a question that begs an "I don't know" for an answer. He may respond with something like, "I wanted to go out with my friends and I didn't have any money". You then ask, "What did going out with your friends do for you?" "It made me feel like part of the group". "What does being part of the group do for you?" "It makes me feel like less of a loser!"
You have probably figured out by now that Josh is feeling like a `loser' and took Brittany's money in order to be part of the group and consequently feel better about himself. So you check it out by saying, "You took Brittany's money so you could be part of the crowd and not feel like a loser?" If that strikes a cord then you follow up with, " I appreciate that you were trying to do something positive for yourself and that is consistent with the Josh I know. What else can we come up with that will make you feel more like part of the crowd or feel better about yourself and doesn't hurt anyone else? Hopefully this will open up a dialogue between you and Josh.
The behavior still needs to be dealt with and Brittany needs restitution. Now that the two of you are in rapport it is a good time to start brainstorming ways to earn the money to pay Brittany back!
Lesley Cordero's mission is to significantly change people's lives by helping them to 'see things differently'. Cordero Consulting offers personal growth solutions in the form of workshops, keynote presentations, and Internet information resources. As a professional speaker, she has designed and delivered workshops, and keynote presentations to thousands of people internationally. Lesley has a background in education, is a trainer in Personality Type Indicators (True Colours, Personality Dimensions), a Master Practitioner in NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) and a Process Consultant. Subscribe to her free ezine "Deep Linking" at www.LesleyCordero.com and begin to connect with what is really important in your life. Are you ready to 'see things differently?'®