I frequently hear complaints from parents that their teens and tweeners are irrational.
Kids say they want to get into a good college, for example, but then they miss school because they’ve stayed up half the night watching movies. Or they say they’d like to keep taking guitar lessons so that they might be able to join their friends’ rock band, but they refuse to practice on a regular schedule or to show up to their lessons.
The first thing to accept is that it is your adolescent’s developmental job to take the irrational position, the position that they know you’ll disagree with. Teens are driven to individuate, or to gain autonomy and independence by differentiating themselves from us, their loving parents. This is why they sometimes take positions we just know they couldn’t possibly really believe. (Except that they do really believe in their take on things, at least emotionally.)
Once we understand that adolescents are highly likely to take seemingly irrational stances on things, there are strategies for us to influence our adolescent children without endangering their need to individuate. This post is based on a conversation that I had with Ron Dahl about raising teenagers, as well as some of Dahl’s written work.
I asked Dahl what he does with his children when he wants to influence them.
His answer? He uses techniques from a clinical method called “motivational interviewing.” Motivational interviewing has proven effective in motivating behavior change in teens in difficult arenas, like drug and alcohol abuse, disordered eating, and risky sexual behavior. Dahl’s advice was to learn to use it as a parent for the more mundane areas where we’d like to see growth in our children, so that if we need it for a bigger problem we know what we are doing.
Continue reading this post on Greater Good for five of Dahl’s techniques that decrease kids’ resistance to our influence.