Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Listen And You Shall Hear

A news story over the weekend really resonated with me. It wasn't about teens or parenting but it reinforced a message that is the primary focus of everything I teach to parents, and that is my "I get it"moments. Saying " I understand, I may not agree, but I see why this is important to you," can change entire outcomes of events from something negative to something positive. Here is the story.

As in many of our states, the Occupy Wall Street movement took hold in many major cities. Boston was no different. A Tent City took over the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a city within a city. Since the end of September this group of hundreds lived and breathed their commitment to their ideals. The city, including the mayor were supportive and patient, but this past weekend they felt it was time to end the occupation. Other cities had faced the same situation, and chose to go in with force, using billy clubs, mace and stun guns to get them to leave. People were hurt, lawsuits were filed, and a demonstration that had started quite peacefully ended in violence. Boston took a different tact. From the beginning, the police were told to get to know these dedicated demonstrators. Rather than being confrontative, and controlling, the officers chose to try to understand who these people were and their commitment to their cause. Over the course of the two month occupation, officers developed relationships with the occupiers. So when the day came this past weekend when the city had to set the final limit, and close down this occupation, they got cooperation not confrontation. This is not to say the occupiers went without some resistance, but the police understood that leaving this "city" was momentous for the demonstrators. They might not have agreed with them, but the police understood that the last 2 months had been a life changing event for many of the people who had chosen to participate, and that they needed to be respected for all they had sacrificed to be involved.There were no billy clubs or mace, only conversations, camaraderie and communication between the police and the occupiers. Some chose to be arrested, but went willingly, while most packed up their belongings and left feeling at the least they were given the respect for all they had done.

I tell this story because it mirrors many kinds of confrontations that you have with your teen. You want your teen to do something. They might not want to do "your something" and there is an impasse. Just like with these police and these demonstrators. You can either go in with your billy clubs and try to "make them" do what you want, by threatening punishment, or you can understand why they are resistant,  and acknowledge their point of view. You can "get "that doing X might not be fun, takes them away from something they would rather be doing, not allow them to do what they want, etc etc etc, but in this case they will just have to go along, and you know that will be hard for them. Most people, when not pushed, like those occupiers will see the light, feel heard, and go along with the plan. Those people who feel pushed, not heard or acknowledged will fight until the end. My way or the highway does not engender cooperation. Understanding does!

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