As a mother of father of an adolescent, you have the challenge of setting limits on your adolescent’s behaviors to ensure his/her safety. At the same time, you have the challenge of permitting your adolescent freedom to explore his/her ideas and experiences. Sometimes it is hard for a parent to know how much to “hold on” and how much to “let go.” Make clear to your adolescent this message: “With freedom comes responsibility.” As you and your adolescent negotiate new privileges, you also need to negotiate new responsibilities.
Your adolescent still needs your help learning how to determine which rules and decisions are the best ones for him/her and for others. Often, there is more than one way to cook a meal, clean a room, or organize one’s day. But moms and dads and adolescents may not see eye-to-eye on how these - and other day-to-day activities - should be done. Disagreement results. As bad as it can feel, some disagreement between a parent and teen is good, because working out disagreements provides valuable learning opportunities for adolescents and can actually strengthen parent-teen relationships. One way for moms and dads and adolescents to work out their differences is through collaborative problem solving.
The negotiation process will be most effective when both parent and adolescent take time to think through what they will say. When possible, plan ahead to meet at a place and time that is convenient for everyone. A quiet, neutral spot where there are few distractions or interruptions is best for open discussion.
Recognize the changes an adolescent is experiencing with social, emotional, intellectual and physical development. These changes may appear as an adolescent strives for independence, experiences hormonal changes and develops thought processes. Understanding the general characteristics of development for each age helps moms and dads effectively negotiate with their adolescent.
Common areas for negotiation with adolescents are:
- Social manners
Topics included in negotiation are chosen based on the youngster's skill level and maturity level. The frequency of negotiation increases as a youngster grows older. During late adolescence, almost all rules may be negotiated, with the parent maintaining a few rules that won't be negotiated. The adolescent is trying to break the walls to independence and may push against some of these rules.
What does negotiating involve?
1. Start with patient and active listening. “What is my son saying?” “What point is my daughter making?”
2. Negotiating requires the ability to recognize the legitimacy of another point of view. “Maybe I was wrong on the facts.” “Maybe I didn't have the full picture.”
3. Parents need the insight to perceive how important this issue is to their youngster. Prioritize it. Rate it on a scale of 1 to 10.
4. It's crucial to have the clarity to determine which issues you’re prepared to go to the mat for. There should be very few.
5. Most of all, parents need the courage and confidence to say, "I've changed my mind." Why? Either your adolescent made a persuasive argument and you respect his/her point of view, or your adolescent presented you with new information that significantly altered the situation, or you appreciate that this is much more important to your youngster than it is to you. Changing your mind does not a diminishment of your role as a mom or dad. It enhances rather than decreases your youngster's respect for you – and it paves the way for future open discussions.
1. Consider your adolescent's point of view. Listen to what your adolescent is saying about the rules. If she disagrees, let her know that you will listen and take seriously what she is saying. If you are willing to listen to her objections and consider what she is proposing, she will be more apt to negotiate. Negotiating up front is better than sneaking behind your back.
2. Be clear. Let your youngster know which rules are negotiable – and which are not. For example, negotiable rules may include curfew, allowance or chores. Non-negotiable rules include such things as driving without a seat belt, school attendance and drinking.
3. Explain the reasons behind the rules. When adolescents understand why the guidelines have been established in the first place, they will be more willing to negotiate new rules and take your concerns into consideration. When adolescents know what you are worried about, they are more likely to think about their actions. An open dialogue not only increases cooperation, it creates a teachable moment. Talking about the reasons behind the rules encourages cooperation by increasing understanding.
4. Encourage adolescents to present their point of view. Adolescents who can present a reasonable argument about why they think the rules should be changed are developing good judgment. Thinking about the rules goes along with deciding how to behave.
5. Talk about consequences. Adolescents often think, "That won't happen to me." Talking about the possible consequences in advance helps the adolescent plan in advance. Don't threaten. Give the information and state the facts, but don't threaten. That way your adolescent can think their behavior through and change directions before something happens.
6. Take past behavior into consideration. When negotiating rules with your adolescent, consider past behavior. If he is meeting his responsibilities and making good decisions, it is likely that he will be able to handle the change in the rule effectively. Give adolescents credit for the good choices they've been making.
7. Choose battles carefully. Give your adolescent more leeway as she shows maturity in judgment. Don't argue, fight or enforce rules that are outdated. Give your adolescent room to grow and expand. Let her have more “say.”
8. Respect their opinion. Adolescents are more likely to cooperate when given a voice in the matters that affect them.
Setting a time for curfew on a school night is an example of how to negotiate something between parent and teen. Here are some guidelines:
1. Parent says what she wants to happen. Start by suggesting what you see as a reasonable curfew.
2. Adolescent shares his reaction without saying yes or no to the request or suggestion.
3. Ask your adolescent to suggest a curfew time.
4. Each person then says any problems with the other's suggestions. If he accepts your suggestion, you are done. If he suggests a later curfew than you did, then (a) repeat his suggestion to show you listened, (b) do not say "no” or “yes" to his suggestion, (c) express your concerns with his curfew suggestion (e.g., not sure that would work because he has a hard time getting up for school on time), and (d) ask what his thoughts are.
5. Both adolescent and parent think of solutions to the problems raised. If still no agreement, then brainstorm solutions. For example, maybe a compromise can work (e.g., earlier than his suggestion and later than yours; slightly later curfew on weekends, but keep earlier curfew on school nights; earlier curfew, but later bedtime; accept later curfew on the condition that it be changed to earlier time if he has difficulty getting up or is tired at school).
6. If agreement, negotiation is over. If no agreement, try to find a compromise. Encourage selection of an option both of you can live with.
7. If no compromise possible, then state differing positions as objectively and respectfully as possible and set a time to discuss the issue again in the near future. If you just cannot agree on the curfew, agree to keep the same curfew as before and set specific time for talking about it again (e.g., on the weekend, after supper the next night, etc.).
1. Explain your position as calmly and simply as possible.
2. Listen, and be sure you understand the other person's point of view.
3. Don't make demands, lecture or bring up old grudges.
4. Suggest and discuss some options you can both live with.
5. If all else fails, take a break or agree to disagree.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents