As our teenagers grow older, it is only natural for them to chafe at the boundaries that have been set for them. It is part and parcel of maturing and gaining an individual identity. Successfully negotiating boundary adjustments should be a healthy partnership – between you and your adolescent – not an adversarial one. How do you work with your teenager to decide on boundaries that are acceptable to you both?
Negotiation is a developed skill. Our teenagers as they progress from early adolescence to emerging adulthood increase their abstract thinking abilities and move away from ego-centrism to being able to empathize and compromise with others. Communicating effectively and positively is the key to successful negotiation. The following technique may help you as you hone this new set of skills!
~ Send ‘I’ messages. Instead of blaming someone else, the person talking lets the other person know how an action or situation affects him or her. The statements are non-judgmental summaries of how you feel. For example, “I feel X about Y because Z.” would translate to “I’m frustrated by your choice of friends because I am afraid that they will be a bad influence on you.”
~ Focus on the situation or behavior – not the person. For example, “we agreed that if you use the car, you are responsible for making sure you put at east $5 worth of gas in it before returning it.” Instead of, “You’re so inconsiderate!” or “Why can’t you do what’s asked of you?”
~ Brainstorm solutions together. By brainstorming, both of you are stakeholders in the negotiation process. By allowing your teen to have his or her say, there is ‘buy in’ that takes place. That way, the eventual solution is less like a rule or edict and more like a guideline or parameter.
~ Be flexible. Everything is subject to change. You can always renegotiate an agreement if the one you’ve made isn’t effective.
Raising a teenager is not easy, but it doesn't have to be an endless battle either. If you are willing to listen and compromise at times, you can learn and, at times, laugh through the process.