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Parenting Teens with Love and Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood

How to Say It to Teens: Talking about the Most Important Topics of Their Lives

by Ellen Galinsky


Think about your child. When you're not around, does he feel uncertain and confused when faced with a choice about what to do or how to react to something? Does he make impulsive decisions without thinking through the consequences of his actions? Or is he learning to use--and trust--his judgment and make choices with competence and confidence?


Although we can't predict what the world will be like when our children grow up, we know that they will be better prepared for the future if they can think for themselves and have developed decision-making strategies that will apply to a wide variety of situations.



To make sound decisions, children, like adults, need good information. They also need to be tuned in to their own and other people's feelings, say Drs. John Clabby and Maurice Elias, authors of Teach Your Children Decision Making (Doubleday). They need to listen carefully and accurately, stay calm and maintain self-control, particularly when they are in a stressful or upsetting situation. Equally important, they need the right balance of self-confidence and the ability to know when and how to ask for help.

Some of these traits can be encouraged but don't lend themselves to formal teaching; others are skills children can learn, beginning at a very young age.


Helping children practice refusal skills--how to say no--should actually be started in mid-elementary grades, but it becomes even more important as they reach the preteen years. What do you say to your friend if he or she wants you to go along with something you don't want to do? "My parents won't let me" or "If I do that, I'll get in trouble with my coach," are sometimes enough, but it gets tricky as kids get older. Role-playing possible situations can help young people practice different approaches to accomplish their goals and find the words that they can be comfortable with.


Some teenagers ask their parents for advice about certain decisions and others don't. If you are asked, try not to move right in with a solution. Ask questions and encourage your child to tell you what options he or she is considering. While we want our kids to think for themselves and make good choices, parents still have a role in clarifying issues and helping kids make decisions. So don't hesitate to express an opinion and convey the values that are important to you.


(adapted from Work & Family Life newsletter, edited by Susan Ginsberg)


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