Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rules for Revolution

I receive a lot of forwards and Cc-s in my inbox.  Typically, they are rushed into the trash bin.  However, there are a few forwards and Cc-s I rush to read.  This is one of those.  
In no way am I attempting to make a political statement or liken any political party's agenda with Communism.   I am sharing the following newspaper clipping from 1919 (via 1970-1975) to help all of us evaluate our 2014.  

Feel free to make and/or share your own observations.  I suggest reading the article through the various lenses of faith and family.  NOTE:  Even though a rich conversation starter on current political topics, I do not welcome political observations on this blog sight and/or Facebook.  

I do invite you to share observations as they relate to faith and family.  

I do encourage you to use these "Rules" as a discussion starter with Adults and Students. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lecture Little-Listen Lots


My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
- James (1:19)

What a great verse for all of us who parent or work with teenagers.  A difficult verse-but great!

Why is it difficult?

Because, like the adults who came before us, I believe I have something to say that is filled with wisdom and needs to be heard.  I no longer need to listen.  I need to engage.  

Did you catch it?  The word "I" was used 4 times in the last few sentences!   A moment of transparency-isn't this what gets most of us parents and adults into communication trouble with teenagers?  It is more about assuring that our words are heard than listening to theirs.  Pause and consider that last sentence again. 

I am not advocating a release of parental/adult authority.  I am suggesting that more listening actually enforces and/or regains authority and lowers the anger level (it is what the Bible says).  Here are a few better listening and talking (lecturing) suggestions:
  • Ask Questions.  Let me start by saying this step may lead to a high frustration level rather quickly (when a student answers a question with "I don't know" or "Whatever"-you may need to read the ONE of My Parenting Flaws post again).  Still, ask leading questions of students. Questions that invite them to express their opinions, thoughts, perspective or defense first.  Questions like...
    • Why would I have received an email from your teacher?
    • What happened that your were late coming home last night?
    • Did you know(name of friend)'s mom called me yesterday? 
    • (After emotions settle) What got you so upset this morning?            
          ...provide a student with a first response opportunity.

  • Let students finish their answer before you respond.  Responses naturally lead to follow up questions and need for further clarification.  Before you make a follow up move, be sure you let the student finish their answer. I know, easier said than done.  Students often spin a response and/or lie to protect themselves or friends.  Still, before the logical follow up moves, listen to their entire response.  Again, when you know the answer to the question before you ask, patience and calm is key and very difficult. 

  • Set the table. If you know the conversation you are about to have with a student is going to be difficult, say so at the beginning.  Statements like... 
"We need to have a conversation about your homework (just picked a difficult topic). We have talked about this a number of times and has led to a few arguments.  I believe neither of us wish to have an argument.  So, even though it may be difficult, I want to hear what you have to say and see if we can have a calm discussion about what we can do to improve the situation."

         ...can really lower stress levels and set positive expectations for the conversation and outcomes.

  • Use a "cheat sheet."  Before having a difficult conversation with your student and to assure you have your questions and information you wish to share prepared, write it down. Often, when the listening stops and the powerful "I" begins to surface,  it is because our emotions take us off script.  When this happens, the logical next step for parents/adults is to take an authoritative stance and take control.  
Communication is difficult in the best of situations.  I can tell you from personal experience that the powerful "I" reactions have surfaced on more than one occasion in my relationships with teenagers.  Don't give up.  Keep practicing those listening and talking (lecturing) skills.

Friday, September 5, 2014

ONE of My Parenting Flaws

Let me share one of my favorite concepts in working with people (parenting, teaching, youth-pasturing).

Non-Anxious Presence: The ability to remain calm when the situation and/or person you are interacting with has lost or losing their calm.  (This is a very condensed definition, gathered from a lot of sources and a key element in the concept of self-differentiation). 

As an adult, working with people and other people's students, I do a pretty good job of non-anxious presence-ing

As a parent, when it is my own people and student, my non-anxious presence-ing needs a little work. 

Anybody with me out here?

There is something about your own people and student that ramps up the anxiety levels.  Even so, if not managed, one will parent out of fear and rigidness instead of confidence and flexibility. 

So, if you are like me and need help with your non-anxious presence parenting skill, try one of these. 

  • Let Emotions Settle.  Before entering into a potentially heated conversation with your student, take a break, breath deep and settle.  Yes, there are emergencies, but most difficult conversations can wait until both parent and student emotions settle.
  • Make and Have a Plan.  Before the conversation, talk with your spouse (or trusted adult) about the situation and brainstorm ideas for engagement.  Emotions can quickly escalate in the simplest of conversations. Have a plan.
  • Take a Break.  The first two suggestions are easier done when NOT in the middle of a tense (nice word for arguing) moment.  If you find yourself in an emotional battle with your student, no one wins and things can be said that damage a relationship (remember fear and rigidness replaces confidence and flexibility in parenting when anxiety level rise ).  Take a break.  Develop a code word for either you or your student to say in order to withdraw and let the emotions settle.   With that in mind, remember that a break does not mean avoidance of conversation!
I hope you enjoyed a look into ONE of my parenting flaws.  Now, let's all breath deep...let it out...and get back to confident and flexible parenting.