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!
If you are the parent of a teenager, you are no doubt familiar with these relics of teenage communication, and parent frustration. Teenagers are notorious for their “minimalist” style of communication with parents, as well as the highs and lows on the teenage “hormonal coaster” that leads to the inevitable verbal spar.
As parents, we feel the weight of responsibility to guide our kids and do our best to set them up for success in all areas of their life. But so many parents we’ve talked to feel that every communication attempt falls on deaf ears. They often come to us at the end of their rope and out of ideas about “how to get their teen to listen.”
There are a lot of tactics and strategies for effective communication. And a lot of them work. But we’ve found that this simple 3-step strategy called "Plan B" is one that works very well for us and the families we work with.
So, to help you and your teen come to a solution that everyone can be happy with, we've developed a series to break down collaborative problem solving with your teen. Today, we'll just be focusing on the rationale behind the Plan B strategy and why it works.
What is "Plan B"?
Plan B is a communication strategy that seeks to develop a collaborative solution to an issue where both parties have "buy in" to the solution they come up with together.
How Does Plan B Work?
As a general rule, as I’m sure you’ve found out a long time ago as parent, teenagers don’t like to be told what to do. As parents, it is our job to enforce boundaries and limited to keep our kids safe, but teens want to feel as though they have a voice in decisions that affect them. That's what makes Plan B so effective - is that it allows teenagers to be an integral part of creating a solution, while also maintaining healthy limits and boundaries as parents.
Here is a brief video describing Plan B in a bit more detail from our Webinar "How To Survive Virtual Learning With Teenagers (Without Losing Your Mind):
In our next post, we'll talk about the first practical step to implementing this strategy and tips for how to do it. Stay tuned!