I recently had the great pleasure of presenting a workshop with Jayne May, a parent of one of our students and ardent supporter of SOAR. As we discussed this workshop, it became clear that so many of the critical foundations here at SOAR transfer really well to individual households. I wanted to share some strategies that may help you help your children to be more responsible, make better choices, and be less oppositional so you can get back to enjoying parenting again? Self
Self Awareness is a critical component to understanding yourself and helping your child or teen understand their strengths, abilities, and challenges to overcome. Does your child know their learning style? Are they visual or auditory learners? Perhaps like many children diagnosed with AD/HD he or she is a hands on learner and learns through experience. The CITE learning styles survey is a free resource available to you. I would also encourage you to learn more about their strengths. Strengthsquest is a survey available through Gallup and does a wonderful job of helping you understand your child’s top strengths.
2. Focus on Strengths
Focusing on strengths is a critical component to help empower youth. The concept of the “looking glass self” suggests that I believe about myself what I believe others around me think of me. Therefore, helping children and adolescents see themselves as dynamic, strength based individuals is critical to having a healthy sense of self. Keep and post victory lists and find ways to remind your children what is amazing about them every day. Helping them find their hidden strengths can be a powerful tool in aiding the development of resiliency. Looking for ways to draw out the strength in each of these challenge areas becomes an integral part feeling capable and extraordinary. Some examples include:
Negative Trait Positive Characteristic
Distractible Multi-task ability
Hyperactive Action- Oriented
3. Involved in Decision Making
When youth are involved in decision making, setting guidelines, and even determining consequences it creates choice. Choice leads to an increased sense of power which promotes healthy decision making and problem solving. If you believe you have a say in what is happening to you, then you’re more likely to be invested in the outcome.
4. Develop a “Failing Forward” Mindset
Learning to fail forward with confidence is a concept I came across a few years ago during a business conference. Allow and even expect that there will be some performance inconsistency and give children permission to fail with the expectation that failure can and will be a stepping stone to success. After all, Edison once famously said of failure “I learned 2000 ways to not invent a light bulb.”
5. Develop Self Reliance / Responsibility
Developing self reliance and responsibility is another key component in promoting empowerment and developing a sense of accountability. Do you have set family chores that your child or teen is responsible for? Consider letting them plan a family date night. Finally, encourage volunteer work or some type of mentoring opportunity with someone who understands the particular needs of your child.
6. Family Constitution
Using a family constitution can aid in creating expectations, fostering outcomes and defining responsibilities for all members of the family. Take a few minutes to develop a mission statement for your family. Then decide before going into the meeting with your children what your non-negotiables are. A good family constitution will have duties assigned, rules of the house, a system for running a family meeting, and a process to change / amend any part of the constitution.
Validation is such a key concept for me that I could have listed it first. However, I believe it is important to develop a mindset and framework of empowerment so that when you provide validation it is genuine and very powerful. Ask yourself this – how do you prefer to be approached when receiving critical feedback? I am very fond of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits, and my favorite is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Consider using reflective listening and be open to the idea that your child may have a point or reason to be frustrated. When you come to a conversation from a place of caring and respect, you will get much farther than when you don’t.
8. Natural and Logical Consequences
Natural and logical consequences can be a useful tool when it comes time to draw the line in the sand. Please take notice of where this item ranks in my top ten. A natural consequence can be as simple as if you leave a bike out in the rain, the chain will rust and it can’t be used. A logical consequence might be withholding the privilege of using a bike for a short period of time if it is not put away. Consequences are immediate, have some logical connection to the behavior your trying to promote or extinguish, and are not overly harsh. Logical consequences are far more successful in changing behavior then punishment, which can be arbitrary and sometime overly severe. Consider letting your child or teen work with you on the development of a consequence.
9. Effective Communication Strategies
Knowing the communication strategies that will work for your family is critical to success. Create guidelines and structure for communication which include reflective listening and agreed outcomes. Use email, notes or other systems to track communication. In addition, encourage your children to make “I” statements, instead of “you” statements. Call a family meeting if you have an issue you need to discuss. Be prepared to negotiate a solution, but come with a proposal.
10. The Proposal System
Finally, we come to the proposal system. This simple tool has been used by many families to significantly change the home environment. If a child wants something they present a proposal with the following components:
- What they want or a change their asking for, along with a rationale
- A list of reasons an adult would deny the proposal
- A solution to overcome each challenge listed
- Conditions for maintaining the change provided
As a parent you can ask for additional re-writes if they have not considered a point. This system does two things very well. Often, ridiculous expectations will be dropped because the child will see they are indefensible. Also, if they follow through with the process, it helps parents understand the value and perspective of a request.
I hope you get a chance to incorporate these ten steps into your life. I know they have made a difference for not only the parents we work with here at SOAR, but in my own family as well.
John Willson, Executive Director for SOAR, M.S. LRT/CTRS