If you have talked to anyone about your problem teenager, then I’m sure you have heard mentioned the idea of using I-messages. This really is a most useful tactic when it comes to developing effective communication between you and your adolescent.
However, the difficulty lies in the correct use of this communication skill. And if you’re in the midst of dealing with a problem teenager at this very moment this might be a difficult time to practice. But you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving it a try. So, why not get started right now by using the following guidelines to help get you communicate your way down the right path.
Successful use of I-messages requires that you know exactly what you want and need from your problem teenager. So take personal responsibility for disclosing your preferences and expressing yourself appropriately to your teen whose cooperation you need.
You will also need a willingness to listen calmly and attentively to your teenager even if he/she becomes defensive or angry. But that discussion is for another day.
So, here is a formula you can follow as you practice I-messages with your adolescent. It’s also a good idea to teach this simple process to your teen if you can get their cooperation with this tactic:
First, start the conversation with…
“When you …”
(Fill in the blank by stating your child’s behavior non-judgmentally.)
“Leave your clothes on the floor…” “Don’t do your homework…” “Lie about where you have been…”
(Disclose your own feelings here.)
“Hurt…” “Angry…” “Upset…”
(Things such as “You made me angry… You hurt my feelings…” are not appropriate here. Remember to take ownership or responsibility for your own feelings. No one makes us feel a certain way. We made the choice to feel that way.
(Explain how the behavior of your problem teenager has impacted your life.)
“It’s important to me to keep the house neat…”
“I’m concerned about you being able to get into college…”
“I know I can’t trust what you say…”
“I want you to…”
(Describe exactly what it is that you want from your adolescent.)
“Put your clean clothes away and the dirty ones in the hamper or (And this is where you state the consequence if not done the next time.)”
This way you get across exactly what you want your problem teenager or any child for that matter to understand where you’re coming from and to know exactly what you want them to do without getting angry or getting into a screaming match with them.
Remember, practice is the name of the game.