Your Great Experiment with Your Teenager

Your Great Experiment with Your Teenager:
Back Off, and Be Positive.

Here is a game plan for parents dealing with teenagers. It is a four-week experiment that you should try with your teen. You are the one who needs to make changes first in order to get along better with him and to help him successfully accomplish breaking away from you (which is his developmental task).

1. Goals of your experiment:

  • End parent-child fights
  • Improve communication.
  • Obtain cooperation.
  • Foster responsibility.
  • Enjoy parenting.

2. You’ve Been Fired!

  • You are no longer your teenager’s BOSS!
  • Your challenge now is to get re-hired as a CONSULTANT.

3. The Parent’s First Step: Declare a Truce

  • Recognize and acknowledge the futility of power struggles. (You can’t win.)
  • Recognize and acknowledge: “I can’t control your behavior.”
  • Recognize and acknowledge the need for cooperation. (Children are not robots. You don’t have a remote control to their brain.) “I’d rather have your cooperation than obedience.”
  • Recognize and acknowledge the need to back off and be more positive. (Even though it’s a risk.)
  • Declare a truce. (“I really want to stop fighting. Things aren’t right here. I’m trying to learn how to parent better. I’m going to back off from trying to boss you around.”)

4. The Parent’s Second Step: The Great Experiment–“Back Off and Be Positive.”

  • Things you might want to say:

a. “I was raised in the old school of parenting used by my parents. That’s where I learned how to parent. But times have changed, and those old-school methods don’t work well anymore. “

b. “Because we’re having all these problems around here, I think I’m doing something wrong. So I’ve started taking this class on parenting, and I’m going to try to do some things differently.”

c. “I’m not going to nag, scold, yell, boss, command, order, criticize, lecture or otherwise try to push you around. You know how I think, and what I want. You’ve heard it all a thousand times.”

d. “I know I can’t control your behavior. So I’m going to stop trying. I expect you to take full responsibility for all your actions and I will take full responsibility for mine.”

e. “You know what is right and wrong. You know what the rules are. You don’t need me to lecture you about those things. And I won’t.”

f. “I’m not going to abandon you, give up on you, or ignore you as if you don’t matter.”

g. “I’m not going to abandon my authority or responsibility as a parent. I’m just going to try to use it in a more creative way.”

h. “You do matter to me. I love you, I care for you, I want the best for you, and I want to help you achieve your goals.”

i. “I hereby resign from trying to be your boss. “

j. “From now on, I’m going to treat you like an adult. I’d like to be your consultant, and negotiate agreements (or contracts) with you.

  • Things you might want to try:

a. Don’t tell them what to do. Stop nagging, scolding, yelling, bossing, commanding, ordering, criticizing, lecturing, blaming, or otherwise trying
to push them around.

b. Instead, watch. Monitor. Observe the GOOD THINGS they do. I-Messages of appreciation.

c. Listen to what they have to say.

d. Negotiate contracts and agreements.

e. When they make requests, want something, say “I’m glad you mentioned that. I want something from you, too. How can we handle this?”

f. Be prepared to tell them what you are willing to do for them out of appreciation.

g. Propose what you want. Wait to see what they suggest. Don’t force anything. Be respectful. Seek a mutual agreement.

5. You are the consultant, not the boss.

But you have to get yourself hired as a consultant whom your teenager trusts and respects. Right now s/he probably is very angry, has little trust in you, and sees you as an enemy, not an ally. If you want more respect, you have to earn it. Be positive. Doing what I suggested above (and sticking to it even when you feel like throwing in the towel will help.)

6. Why take the “back-off” approach? Because backing off creates necessary space for the teen:

  • Space for response ability (responsibility)
  • Space for personal initiative
  • Space for voluntary cooperation with you
  • Backing off creates space and a new vantage point for you to:
          a. Observe everything closer
          b. Focus on good things
          c. Breathe easier, yell less
          d. Avoid stooping to their level
          e. Avoid throwing gasoline on the fire.
  • Backing off fosters their trust in you.
  • Trust model = Shared goal, Mutually perceived power, Risk
  • Trust develops with the risk: power not used.
  • Backing off fosters your trust in them.
  • You start seeing they’re NOT ALL bad.
  • You start seeing some gold in the volcano’s fire.
  • Backing off helps you think your way through this;
  • How to build on success? By acknowledging, rewarding positives.

7. Why be positive? Especially when they are so negative?

  • Because it’s respectful. You’ll get it by saying 5 positive things to your teen for every 1 negative.
  • They hunger for approval. They want to be appreciated. They want you to treat them like adults.
  • Respond to these needs. The parent must always change first. By your being positive you actually teach them how to be positive. What goes around, comes around. You get what you give out.

8. Please remember! You are not giving up your parental authority, power, or responsibility!

  • This plan is intended to empower you as a parent, so you can use your power in a better way: namely, as a “strength-based consultant.”
  • You are not giving in to your teenager. You are acknowledging that she is in control of her own behavior. You are working to invite and hopefully gain, her trust, cooperation, and responsible behavior.
  • You are working to end the fighting and begin person-to-person dialogue that helps your teen think through problems and think about how to accomplish their goals.
  • Change your expectations. By taking a “co-creative” attitude, you ask, “What can we create together?”
  • “Backing off” is not “backing down.” Or giving in. Or losing. Or giving up. Or getting pushed around. Or being walked on. All those thoughts are just your ego talking. Try to get this “win-lose” mentality out of your mind. By backing off you’re creating space for your child to be him/herself.
  • Your biggest challenge will be your own ego! This whole experiment is an experiment on YOU, not your child. It’s an experiment to see how well you can put your ego in its place, and see your child as s/he really is, without you on their back, trying to do the impossible–control them.
  • You are now committing to treating him/her with the respect you yourself want and deserve from them. This may be foreign territory for your EGO. But it’s the road to a harmonious relationship that is going to last for many years.


    3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my book  that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model and the New School Parenting model.  Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.     Learn more.    Buy Now.   Table of Contents & Intro