Three Teen Tools to Create Cooperation

Three Teen Tools to Create Cooperation and Build Respect
by Ron Huxley
Raising a teen doesn't have to be a frustrating experience. Most parents just don't have the right tools for the job. Here are three Teen Tools parents can use to increase cooperation and develop mutual respect:

Teen Tool #1: "Job Description" is a parenting tool that ensures that children understand what is expected of them when performing a chore or job at home. Just as in the office, parents can write out a "job description" that details what is expected of them. This reduces power struggles and conflicts during and after the job is done. Parents must be sure not to be condescending to children, especially older children, when writing it out. And more detail or steps may be necessary for younger children than older children. A thorough job description states who is to do the job, when it is to be done, how it is to be done, and where it should be done, if applicable.

Teen Tool #2: A "parent/child contract" is an agreement between a parent and a child (note the singular tense) that sets up an exchange of desired behaviors for desired rewards. The agreement should include not only what the child will do, but what he or she can expect to receive in return. Make the behavioral exchanges simple and easy to achieve. Write up a summary of who does what, when, where, and how and place it where the child can see it. Sign it to make it official and then modify it on a weekly basis to fine tune the agreement. Was it too difficult? Do you need to change when or where it occurs? Do you need to teach the child how to accomplish the expected task? In the event that you have more than one child, write up a separate contract for each child as each child's abilities and personality are unique. The democratic style of parenting views each member of the family as "equal" in terms of their right for respect and dignity but not in terms of their responsibilities and functions. Use the Baseline parenting tool listed above before starting and the Problem Solving parenting tool listed below to steer clear of any negotiation difficulties.

Teen Tool #3: "Negotiation" is a powerful parenting tool for older children. Although some parents will need to use this tool earlier than others, depending on the personality of their child, all parents will find this tool valuable in their interactions with their children. Negotiation is a tool that allows for a win/win situation to occur between two parties who do not already mutually agree. It incorporates several steps:

- Know What Is Negotiable and Not Negotiable. Knowing what is negotiable and what is not negotiable is helpful when working out a compromise. This firmly establishes a parent's bottom line or limit on a subject. Parents must make sure to be realistic as well as firm.

- Open-Mindedness. Be willing to listen and consider the other person's viewpoint. If the child feels the parent has already made his or her mind then the negotiation will just be a charade and the child will be rightfully angry and resentful.

- Set A Time Limit. Keeping it short will prevent the discussion from wandering down a "rabbit trail" or going in circles. Keep things on the topic at hand and to the point.

- Keep It Private. Don't embarrass the older child by negotiating in a public place. They will be more likely to react to what they think others are thinking about them. Also, keeping it one-on-one will prevent power plays from developing by having other people joining in the negotiations either for or against the parent.

- Stay Calm and Cool. Don't try and negotiate when angry, tired, or preoccupied with other things. It is difficult to stay rational when other thoughts and feelings are crowding for attention. If the situation gets heated take a "time-out" to cool down and then resume talks. Set this up as a ground rule beforehand if a heated discussion is likely.

- Acknowledge The Others Points. Even if they are totally off base, acknowledge the other person's points. They are obviously important to that person even if they are irrational. This will also encourage positive relations and cooperation when the final solution is reached rather than backstabbing and sabotage.

- Restate the Final Solution. Reiterating the solution to the negotiation will make sure that everyone involved is clear on what was agreed upon. It will eliminate the possibility of not following the solution due to miscommunication.

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