Do I focus on the broken trust or concern for my teen?
If your focus is on broken trust, you will breed shame! If you focus on concern for your teen you will gain an ally in rebuilding trust! In part 1 I used an analogy of a rancher and a broken cattle fence. I'd like to continue with the fence analogy but not the cattle. Believe it or not your teen is not a sheep, cow or chicken, and that’s where that part of the analogy ends. For now, just picture your teen inside a cattle fence, you can dress them in any silly outfit you'd like.
When you focus on the broken fence (trust) as your major concern you subtly communicate that they are broken. It's like saying "without being fenced in, you're incapable of taking care of yourself." As a parent my job is to make you feel really bad about breaking the fence, fear breaking the fence again and command you to get the hammer. My hope is that once the patch is repaired, my teen is safe, as long as he never breaks the fence again.
The problem with this approach
- Temporary fix to lifelong problems, this may have worked when they were younger
- Harms/stalls the relationship, your relationship turns into being one of fear, anger, avoidance and control
- Teaches obedience not skills
- Teen learns to hide and put on a false persona to avoid shame
- When the teen goes to college or moves out they want to be free. Their freedom is going to be defined by your restrictions
When you focus on your teen as your major concern you communicate that they are capable of rebuilding trust. Better yet, they are capable of building new fences to protect them from new dangers as they arise later in life.
The benefits of this approach
- Enhances the relationship, the focus is always on the wellbeing of the teen (not on what got in the way of the wellbeing of the teen)
- Creates safety to have an open conversation about alcohol
- Teaches them to understand themselves, their weaknesses, values and goals
- Their freedom is defined by their values and goals, your job is to help facilitate healthy ones
- Your teaching them to walk through difficult problems, this isn't the last time they'll be tempted!
Don’t get the wrong impression that discipline, boundaries and limitations aren't part of this approach, they just aren't the focus. We'll talk more about that in part 3.
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About Me: I'm a Christian counselor in Vancouver, WA. I specialize in treating male teens and men's counseling. Please contact me with any questions about my blog, counseling or to set up an appointment.
All information and opinions shared on this blog are for educational purposes only. Please contact me or another mental health care provider for diagnosis and treatment.