Starting Difficult Conversations With Your Teen
Parent Question: My biggest problem is beginning the conversation to start with, especially as our son is not eager to participate in a difficult conversation.
Although this question is similar to a recent one about how to have conversations with our kids without them resenting the questions and feeling like they are being interrogated… I wanted to address it separately as it goes back to a very important parent mantra we teach:
You’re the parent!
In the Biggest Job Workshop, we teach some mantras, the first of which is, “We’re the parents.” Most of the time, the reply from the group comes back as a pathetically meek response that can hardly be heard, so we ask for it to be repeated. The second answer is usually more forceful and believable, and we begin to trust that people in our audiences are getting that they truly are the parents, and they need to give up what their kids think of them.
As long as you’re living by your principles, parenting from your principles, betting on the truth, and doing the best you can every day, then let go of whether or not your kids are eager to participate in a difficult conversation.
I know that sometimes the conversations are just as difficult for us as parents, so start the conversation with that: “Dan (or Danielle), I’m having a hard time knowing where to start this conversation…” That’s betting on the truth about yourself; it’s also telling your child, “I’m having a hard time, but we ARE going to have this conversation.” The unsaid part which you say to yourself is: “Because I’m a parent who takes my job seriously, and even though some conversations are tough, I’m a parent who has courage and doesn’t run from tough situations.”
Although your child may not thank you for this now, they will in the long run. That gratitude won’t come on your timetable; in fact, it might not come for years. But take comfort in the fact that you’re not focused on being friends with your child, that you’re parenting from a place of courage and responsibility, and that your child will someday see you as having been an inspiring parent.
What more could you ask for?
Thanks for the question.