Originally published on Better Family Habits July 6th, 2015 by Maria Mara, MA
What happens when you ask your teen to wash the dishes, tidy up after themselves, do their homework or any other task which contributes to your vision of raising a well-adjusted adolescent – and they say NO?
Do you feel frustrated, helpless, overwhelmed?
And most importantly what can you do in these situations that enhances your connection with your teen rather than creating distance, a gap in communication and of course keeps you sane!
The first part to consider is when you make a request from your teen you need to ask yourself two questions. Firstly what would I like my teen to do? Okay this one’s easy – wash the dishes for example. The second question you need to ask yourself is what would I like my teen’s reason for doing this to be? For example would you like them to WANT to wash the dishes as opposed to doing them out of obligation and/or fear of punishment?
If your intention is to encourage in them a desire to complete the task keep reading!
Understanding Needs – Theirs & Yours
The key component we shall consider in these intricacies of communication are NEEDS. You can find a full list of collective human needs HERE.
Needs are universal. In any given moment we are trying to fulfill one or more of our needs. Behind each of our requests to a loved one lie a variety of needs. As a parent you may want your teen to wash the dishes because you have a need for cleanliness in the kitchen or for contribution in the household or for sharing of the chores so they don’t all fall on you.
On the other hand in that moment your teen will have needs of their own. This could be their need for choice i.e. to decide for themselves if they want to do the dishes without fear of punishment, autonomy or freedom as to how they spend their time, or they would just rather be doing something else at that moment (for example they may have a need forfun or relaxation after dinner).
Once you have an understanding of both your needs and their possible needs (we can only guess their needs based on the information they are offering us). You can proceed with communicating these to them. The intention here is firstly understanding yourself, understanding them, then communicating with them in a way that brings you closer and lastly finding strategies together that can fulfill both of your needs.
First look within and ask yourself what you are needing right now. With practice this becomes an automatic process as you increase self-awareness, self- understanding and self-empathy in relation to needs. Remember all needs are valid and acknowledge this to yourself.
Second concentrate on recognizing their needs and communicating these to them. If they say they have already told their best friend they will call them after dinner – ask them if they are eager to connect with their friend. If they say not now mum I’m tired, ask if they need rest after the meal. Connect with them. Really listen to what they are saying.
Express your own needs to them. By sharing your own needs this gives your teen an understanding of why this task is important to you. Choose to say I need support in the household tasks as opposed to I need you to…
Discuss possible strategies that can meet everyone’s needs. In every situation there are literally dozens of strategies you can come up – explore together to find the one that works for you both in that moment. This could be anything from them doing the dishes in 10 minutes (or speaking to their friend in 10 minutes!), to them offering up another way to contribute in the house.
Make The Time – For Them & For You
People say to me I don’t have time for this whole process I just want them to do the dishes!
Although this may seem like a lot of extra work in the beginning it does become a faster and more automatic process with time. It definitely is much easier if you ensure you are well rested, well fed and are feeling calm and happy as opposed to being stressed, tired, had a long day etc. So the key message here is to look after yourself. Check in with yourself throughout the day and be sure you are giving yourself what you are needing frequently.
Once you are coming from a place of ease, rest and excitement to connect with your teen each situation moves away from a dreaded battle of wills and becomes an opportunity to enhance and build your relationship with them.