Teen Parenting Expert’s Tip of the Month – October

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Strategies for Staying Calm
By Barbara McRae, MCC

One of my clients, we’ll call her JoAnn, has two teenagers. She asked me to help her say “No” calmly. She tends to avoid any kind of possible conflict, and when she is faced with one, she gets highly stressed, belaboring the point until the message is lost.

It’s natural that a conflict can arise when someone wants you to say “Yes” and you say “No.” This is especially the case with teenagers that haven’t yet learned how to be respectful of your role as parent-coach. In this role, you have the responsibility to choose what’s best given the
situation at hand.

For example, if you give in to your underage teen’s request to make beer or wine available for a party they’re having, you’d be seen as a pushover. Teens don’t respect pushovers even when they end up getting what they want. Further, you’d be shirking your parental duties. If you refuse the request, be prepared for complaints, including “You never let me do anything. I hate you!” Here’s how you can minimize the friction.

The best strategy I’ve found is known as the “sandwich” technique. It consists of three statements. (1) Acknowledge the other person’s statement (viewpoint). This validates them and they feel heard which allows for more willingness to hear you.(2) State the reason for your refusal and the reason why you will not or cannot comply with your teen’s wishes. (3) Add what you will do instead or can say to ease their disappointment.


1. I know you think it would be a lot more fun to have booze at your party. And that you want me to get it for you.

2. I have an obligation as a parent to keep you safe and not contribute to illegal activity. I’d rather have you think of me as being over-protective than to go along with you and then live with the guilt if someone ended up getting killed as a result of drinking and driving at your party.

3. It’s important for us to responsible. I know you care about your friends and wouldn’t want anything like that to happen to them.

Keep your statements short. Lecturing teens doesn’t work. A calm caring tone and a centered disposition will help you effectively deliver this message. If you start to lose command of your emotions, stop talking. Excuse yourself, terminating the conversation until you regroup.

If your teen is still not hearing your message, use the “broken record” technique. You simply repeat your message lovingly during your dialog, as often as it takes for your message to stick.

Know that you’ve been successful when the words leave your mouth. Don’t expect your teens to give you the satisfaction of agreeing with you. That’s much more likely to happen when they’re in their twenties!

Barbara McRae, MCC
Teen Parenting Expert, Campus Calm
© Barbara McRae

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