Adolescents are remarkable. They can bounce back from any ailment and can flourish in the worst of environments. Like anybody, adolescents need to know that people care and understand them. Adolescents are still discovering their world and still working things out inside of their heads. They are continuously regarding and disregarding rules and cultures around them.
In order to assist adolescents in sorting through their world and emotions, parents need to be active listeners. Adolescents don't always want their problems solved for them, but they need someone to listen to them. When listening to adolescents, do not be judgmental but still allow the adolescent to know where your morals stand. Don’t share stories about past mistakes that you have made. Adolescents will use these as excuses instead of examples.
If the adolescent crosses the line in a premeditation that they are making, let them know, but don’t assume that they will go through with it. Allow them to discuss both good and bad choices before they make a decision and let them know that you have confidence in their ability to make the right one. Adolescents like to bluff and tell you that they will make the bad choice. Don't fall into their trap. Just keep your head up and continue to express confidence in them. Usually your confidence in them will influence them in making a good decision when the moment comes.
Tyler sat and listened to his son. His son had been talking about the choices that he would make once he finished school. He had been talking for quite some time now, and had stopped making any sense an hour ago. Finally Tyler had enough. Tyler told his son that if he did not have enough sense to decide to go to college, he would decide for him.
After seventeen years of living with his father, his son knew which buttons to push. He yelled back to his father that he did not want to go to college; he was going to live with his drug addict friend and write rap music for a living. Tyler was not going to have a son of his not finish college. He called Tyler’s school counselor, changed his classes to A.P. classes and scheduled an appointment for Tyler to take the A.C.T.
Tyler’s son had intentionally pushed his buttons. He wanted his father to make his decisions for him, but at the same time he resented the lack of self-autonomy that he felt. He knew that college was a reasonable option, but he did not like feeling that he did not have any control over his life. Tyler purposefully did not fill out the paperwork for the A.C.T. and blamed his father when he did not receive good grades in the A.P. classes.
Peter sat and listened to his son. His son had been carrying on for a while now about choices that he had to make once he finished high school. As he listened, Peter noticed that his son was beginning to talk in circles. He was also mixing facts with probabilities and guesses. As his son continued, he became so abstract that he was losing the ability to make a definite decision.
Since his son was a visual learner, Peter got a piece of paper and had his son write down the options available to him. Peter hated diagrams; he found them to be confusing at best. Peter’s son loved diagrams, so Peter encouraged his son to make diagrams that represented his problems. Peter did not tell his son what to write down or how to write it, he simply suggested a way to think about the problem that he knew his son could relate to.
After a while his son had apparently gotten a grasp on the subject, because he began to make more sense. Then, his son slipped in a wild card. It was his son’s habit to say that he was going to pick the worst plan possible, whenever he was feeling stressed. It did not come as a surprise to him when his son announced that the plan, with the worst possible outcome, was the one that he was going to choose. It was his son’s way of baiting him and trying to force Peter to make the choice for him. Instead of getting scared and trying to make his son choose the choice that was the best in his eyes, Peter simply told his son that he believed in his ability to make a good choice. Peter also reminded his son of the positive accomplishments that he had already made and expressed confidence in his ability to achieve higher aspirations.
Peter’s son was not really planning on picking the alternative with the least desirable outcome. He was simply trying to force his father to make the decision for him. Peter hated making life changing decisions. He hated it that his father never told him what to do, but he respected that it was making him a stronger person. He also drew heavily on his father’s belief in himself.