Counting to Ten

When your teenagers were kids, some relative or perhaps even your child’s pediatrician passed on to you the age-old wisdom of counting to ten before saying no to your children.  This practice leaves your kids feeling listened to and gives you some reflection time to consider whether no is indeed what you want to say. . . .  When your child reaches adolescence, this practice of counting to ten before saying no needs an upgrade.

Now instead of counting to ten before saying no, you need to count to ten before saying anything!  That is, when whatever they are saying activates your anxiety, that’s when you need to stay quiet and expectant for ten seconds, which gets you a passing grade on the test your teenager is putting you through.  Will you listen even when the stakes go up and make you nervous?  Your counting to ten slowly and staying silent gives her the time to realize that you are respecting her independence (you aren’t brushing her aside), that it is a tough situation (you don’t have an easy answer), that you believe in her (the expectant look on your face and in your demeanor), that you won’t try to control her (you’re not lecturing her), and that you won’t abandon her (you’re still there).  In other words, lots happens in those ten seconds of quiet.

— Michael Riera, Staying Connected to Your Teenager, p. 108-109

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