Trans’parent’cy (clever right?): Influencing Teens Through Honesty? How Strange…

Posted: July 18, 2012 in For Educators, For Parents and Guardians
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As strange and calculating as it may sound… tell your kids you are trying to manipulate (also known as influence) how they think.  Explain to them exactly how you’re trying to manipulate their decision making processes.  With a sense of humor and lightness, take the negative connotation out of the word manipulate and explain that part of your job as a parent  is to guide them. And let them know what benefits and skills may come to them if they evolve in the ways you’re trying to help them to evolve. Let them know that when they do start to think before they act, they’ll experience less embarrassment and more pride and confidence.  Tell them when you’re trying to make them feel guilty for having hurt someones feelings because they should feel guilty… hurting peoples feelings is mean… and it’s a good thing for them to feel guilty, because the unpleasantness of the guilt they feel will dissuade them from making the same choice next time.

Be as clear and as honest as you can be about your intentions and what changes you’re hoping to see in their behaviors… but also be crystal, CRYSTAL clear that while you are trying to influence them, it’s only the unhealthy, risky, dangerous elements of what they do that you’re trying to influence… and that you absolutely support their individuality and independence. When trying to influence how your child thinks, be sure to explain why. State very openly what your assumptions are about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it… and than tell them to correct your assumptions if they are wrong. I know it might sound radical, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results. If you get a call from your child’s teacher telling you that they’re disruptive and their grades are low, tell your child you’re assuming that their social life is more important to them than learning at the moment… or tell them your assuming that they feel insecure in class for having fallen behind and that they’re acting out to hide their insecurities… and than invite them to disagree with your assumptions.

Our connections with our kids are built on trust, and when we fall in love with our own cleverness, or underestimate our kids’ savvy and intelligence, we’re damaging their trust of us.  Young people sense stuff.  They feel dishonesty, they sense selfishness and they get suspicious and defensive when they do. This is why transparency is so important, to minimize their resistance and distrust. Not to mention the fact that being transparent is just faster and easier than being sneaky and clever when pursuing behavioral change or trying to gather information.

Many adults allow their ego’s to drive too much, when it’s our care for our kids’ development that needs to be driving.  When we’re beating around bushes with our kids or cultivating master plans to manipulate our students’ behaviors, we’re doing so because we’re underestimating our kids or we like the idea of pulling strings and secretly influencing others with our intelligence… or we’re just acting out of habit.  And we just need to get rid of this way of thinking.

Instead, we should prioritize their development over our own ego’s, speak openly from our experiences, tell them exactly what we think and what we see, and tell them why we’re making the decisions we are… and than we should invite their transparency with us.

Inviting our kids to be transparent with us about their feelings, assumptions and decisions doesn’t mean we’re telling them they’re our equals (because they aren’t), we’re simply helping them cultivate communication and reflection skills.  Our kids aren’t our equals, they’re kids, and just because we’re inviting them to be transparent with us doesn’t mean we have to give in to them (unless of course they’re making more sense than us… which does happen at times). Helping our kids develop their voices shouldn’t scare us. It should simply be one of our goals.  And if we’re cultivating a relationship built on trust and transparency where their voices are getting developed, than this just means there will be less secrets between us and them… and this is a really good thing.

Transparency works.  It’s one of the simplest and greatest tools when trying to influence young people and it’s a tool that when used often, becomes the norm both for them and for us.


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