Have you heard yourself lately yell, “Why did you do that???” to your teen after he or she made a decision that feels completely off, weird, wrong, or terrible to you?
“What were you thinking?” is another question that these pre-emergent adults hear from their parents after making a choice that didn’t fit in well with parental thought patterns or family morals.
These just might be common questions you’ve been asking as you parent your middle schooler or teen. And, it’s okay to ask them…but, what if there was a way to break the cycle of this typical scenario: teen makes decision, teen’s decision creates a mess, parents ask the questions after the decision, teen may or may not learn from situation, parents brace for the next decision and ensuing mess.
Most teens will respond with a defensive, snarky shoulder shrug or a frustrated “I don’t know!” response when asked about their thought processes before decisions were made. They’re perplexed as well. They’re frustrated right alongside of their parents. They’re likely to get angry, too. The after-the-incident-questions are mostly likely to result in yelling from both sides. This back and forth questioning just isn’t going to work for reducing or eliminating this scenario in the future.
The truth is most of the time, teens make decisions without really thinking or stopping to think or being aware that they can think. To stop this typical cycle is to address it, provide a plan for it, and teach making-decision skills before a decision-making situation arises.
In our fast-paced world, how can parents get their teen’s attention? How can they even have a chance to enter into their child’s mind before sending them off to school to interact with the multitude of stimuli that seemingly comes at them at lightning speed? It is a daunting task, I understand, but there is hope.
The first step is to talk about decision-making when there is no mess currently going on that needs to be cleaned up. When all is calm is the best time to talk about this very important life skill. It’s important not only for the teen years, but for all of adulthood. Parents want to enjoy their adult children, who are making positive decisions. Parents do not want to still be parenting their adult children so teaching decision-making now is an investment in your parenting future.
Begin with discussing your own decision-making stories. What went well and what went sour? Why? What would you do the same and differently? How do you make decisions now? Essentially, you are evening the playing field. You are creating an environment that says, “I know it’s challenging being a teen shifting between childhood and adulthood. I understand, but I’m going to offer you a way out of the struggle. You don’t have to suffer like I did.”
Now that you are both on the same page with common ground and mutual understanding, you can teach decision-making skills. It begins with desire. What does anyone want for his or her life? Peace, joy, and love? I certainly hope so! Every decision is either going with or against one’s desire. The second part of this conversation is creating a desire statement, which can be as general or as specific as your child wants it to be right now. Discuss how this is an on-going creation as one’s desire changes with time.
I desire for a life of peace, joy, and love.
I desire a life that is filled with cooperation from everyone I meet.
I desire a life that is filled with fun, passion, and enjoyment.
I desire a life that has enjoyable people who are fun.
I desire a life that happens smoothly with positive people and fun.
Now, how do we know that these desires are occurring in our lives? It’s very simple: we feel good. Positive vibes feel good and that is the indicator that sends the message, “Yes, this is the way to go.” Yes, decision-making is about feelings and not solely by thinking. In all of my Empowering Kids: Choose, Groove, Move books, I explain this decision-making process in depth. I use this jingle: “If you feel less than great, hesitate. If it’s a good vibe you know, go!”
Here is my system:
Choose – realize that this Earth life journey experience offers a plethora of options. Choose from the vast array! Know that options abound for everything. Realize that you have options all the time. “You are never stuck. Your child is never stuck. You always have options with everything.” Talk about having options a lot and often. Put this into your daily conversation with your teen. Put it on the refrigerator. Post it on the bathroom mirrors. Write it in your child’s agenda. Surround your home with option positivity! Allow this option mentality to permeate your home, sink into your family’s psyche, and become part of your family’s philosophy. Create a culture within your home that says, “Options always abound for us.”
Groove – This is the feeling part. Once anyone has selected an option, pause to see how it feels at the Soul level. Begin a daily discussion about Soul-level feelings vs. surface feelings. When something feels good or peaceful, loving, caring, and positive, then it is at the Soul level. These decisions/options will be for the betterment of all. Even when a decision isn’t what others want, the end result is for the benefit of all. An example of this is when a decision to break up with another is a selected option and it feels good. The person on the receiving end of this decision may not like it, but in the end will be for everyone’s benefit. (See my Empowering Kids: Relationships book.)
Move – once a selection/option/choice is selected and it feels great, then it is okay to proceed.
Can’t decide? Suzy Welch, a columnist and former editor of the Harvard Business Review, created the 10-10-10 rule for decision-making. It basically says to ask oneself if a decision will feel good in 10 minutes, in 10 months, and in 10 years from now. While this applies more to adults because teens live in the moment so much more, we can adapt Suzy’s 10-10-10 Rule to 10 seconds, 10 minutes, and 10 hours from now.
My Choose, Groove, Move three-step system slows down decision-making into three simple, but important steps. It is simple enough for anyone to use…including teens. It incorporates the whole person – mind, body, and spirit, which makes it unique. We are not brains on sticks, but are integrated beings so it makes perfect sense to live as integrated beings with all decision-making. Living from and through the spiritual perspective is important for positive experiences to be drawn to us.
Talk about Choose, Groove, Move on a daily basis so that it becomes a part of the thinking process for everyone in your household. Post notes in clothes drawers, wall, mirrors, and calendars that remind of how to create positive decision for the betterment of all. Soon, you will not need to frustratingly say, “Why did you do that??” but will say, “Great choice today. How did you do that?” This is purposeful, positive parenting at its best.