In our last post, we explained the concept around "Plan B" communication strategy, what it is, and why it's so effective. Today, we are going to walk you through the first (and arguably, most critical) step of putting Plan B into action - LISTENING TO YOUR TEENAGER.
Here's a brief video to explain this step:
I'm a very concrete person, so here's an example of how this might actually play out. We’ll use a scenario to make this as practical as possible:
Let’s say Jordan, a 16 year old, is a lot of time on her phone. Her parents have made comments in the past “Jordan, you’re spending too much time on your phone,” or “Don’t you have homework to do?” that has been met with shrugs and no changes in screen time. One night, after dinner, Jordan’s mother, Abby, gets fed up and tells her flat out to turn off her phone. “Why?!” Jordan begins yelling, and a heated argument quickly ensues. Abby ends up taking the phone from Jordan and grounding her from the phone for a week. Jordan storms off and slams the door.
The next few days are tense. Jordan doesn’t talk to mom except for transactional conversations. Abby feels she may have “gone too far” but hold firm to her consequence.
Rough times. The struggle is real, my friends. As the parent of a teenager, you're likely able to relate on some level to this saga. And you've probably tried LOTS of strategies to address it, likely with varying levels of success. Here's how Abby might handle this using Plan B:
First, Let everyone cool down.
Never try to solve a problem when one or both people are angry or emotional. Wait until the situation cools off, or, better yet, until you are in a pleasant moment with the other person. Do what you need to do to calm down (take a walk, remove yourself from the situation for a time, etc.) and give the other person the time and space they need to do the same.
In the scenario of Abby & Jordan, don’t try to solve it right away. It may take a few hours or even days of waiting, but wait for a time when you are together, everyone is in a good mood, and you are doing something you enjoy.
When everyone is calm, casually together and having a good time, bring up the issue.
Maybe Abby could go out for coffee and ask Jordan to come along, or just during casual conversation over dinner or in the car. Begin the conversation with a NON-JUDGEMENTAL open ended question. It may look something like this: “Hey, yesterday you got really upset when I asked you to put your phone away. What was going on?”
Actively listen and ask for clarification.
Once the question is out there, now you listen for understanding (not necessarily agreement, but to get where they are coming from). Let your teen talk about what happened/the issue at hand and why it is a problem for them. Ask him or her questions to understand their side. Practice active listening. If they become defensive or accusatory, don’t dish it back. Try to repeat back what they said so you can really understand where they’re coming from.
(Note that you don’t have to AGREE with what you are saying to acknowledge their feeling). It might look something like this: “So what I hear you saying is….is that right?”
Teens are MUCH more likely to listen if they feel that they have truly been heard and validated....which will take us to the next step, where it's (finally!) you turn to talk! Stay tuned!