Unplug the Power Tools

The other night I read a couple sentences in The Reader’s Digest that made me pump my fist in the air and say, “Yes!  That’s what parents need to know!”

The sentences, excerpted from the Harvard Business Review, said, “When there is little agreement, you have to use ‘power tools’ – coercion, threats, punishments, and so on, to secure cooperation.  But if the employees’ ways of working together succeed over and over, consensus begins to form.”

This is exactly why some parents struggle with their teens.  Several times I’ve had parents contact me and say, “I’ve tried everything: taking away the cell phone/computer/video game system, grounding, docking allowance. . .nothing works!”  And my response is always the same – that’s because you are trying to control a child who doesn’t want to be controlled any more than you do.

Think of the worst boss you can imagine.  Let’s say she barks orders at you, embarrasses you in front of your co-workers, threatens to make you work on Saturday, and constantly points out your mistakes.  Is she someone with whom you want to have lunch – or share a cup of coffee?  Do you give her your best effort – or do you slyly see what you can get away with?

Now imagine the best possible boss, one who values your input, sings your praises to other bosses, realizes you have your own stresses in life, and makes you feel appreciated.  Do you enjoy spending time with him?  Do you look for ways to make him happy?

If you want to have good relationships with your teens, learn to work with them instead of trying to control them.  Certainly there are times when consequences are appropriate, but they’re better used as a result of inappropriate behavior than as a threat to force someone to do something.  If you want your teen to show you respect, you need to be sure you’re modeling it – beginning with your tone of voice and facial expression when you make a request, whether it’s getting homework done or setting a curfew.

Any contractor will tell you it’s important to use the right tool for the right job.  There’s no need to pull out the Black and Decker power drill to tighten your eyeglasses.

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1 Comment

  1. What powerful wisdom! “Good relationships…consequences as a result rather than threat…modeling respect…” That paragraph is contains powerful stuff for all our encounters, not just with our teens. If parents could begin this way when their children are little, the teen years would be so much easier.

    Thanks, Sue, for hitting the nail so squarely on the head again!

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