"Avoid handing down a consequence to your teen while you're angry, because
it may be too strong and you'll want to change your mind once you've cooled
"I have tried your parent talk ideas with my 13-year-old daughter. No
matter what I say to her, she still leaves wet towels on the bedroom floor.
I did your Red Light/Green Light strategy, used Describe/Describe/Describe,
and asked her to please make a different choice. None of my parent talk
seems to help. I still find wet towels on the bedroom floor. What do I
Answer: It is time to end parent talk and begin parent action. I suggest
you get weird. What you have been doing is not working. It is time for
you to do something new, something radical, something attention-getting.
The parent talk techniques you are using are typical strategies that work
with most children. If typical strategies don't work with your daughter,
it is definitely time to get weird.
I suggest that the next time your daughter enters her bedroom, she find
garbage bags that have been cut open, spread out, and taped or stapled
to the floor. The garbage bag floor will catch her attention. When she
asks what has happened to her bedroom, tell her you are protecting the
floor from wet towels. Explain that since she has chosen not to protect
the floor, you have decided to assume the floor-protecting role. The garbage
bags are simply there to protect the floor from moisture and mildew.
Another strategy you might consider is changing your mind about the
wet towel situation. Yes, work hard using every technique you can think
of to get your daughter to change her behavior. If all your efforts fail,
maybe you can change your mind about the behavior. Give it up. Let it
go. Stop making it so important. Is it really worth all that family stress?
If you can't change the behavior, you can always change your mind about
"Parent Talk: Words That Empower, Words That Wound" is a 280-page hardback
book by Chick Moorman. It is available through Personal Power Press at
(toll free) 877-360-1477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Spirit Whisperer Contemplation [back to top]
What if your relationship with your child is merely a reflection of your
relationship with yourself? What might this relationship be trying to
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Spotted on Swan Creek Road, heading west towards Hemlock, MI.
"My child was inmate of the month at the county jail."
I am wondering tonight what motivates people to put this bumper sticker
on the backs of their cars. Are they simply thumbing their noses at the
typical child-of-the-month bumper stickers? Are they suggesting that child-of-the-month
honors are silly? Do they hurt because their children are choosing behaviors
that garner undesired recognition? Have they ever had a child in jail
or in a juvenile home? Are they saying that school is jail and students
are prisoners? What message are their children learning from this display?
What do they really want us to know?
If you have this bumper sticker on your car, I'd love to hear from you.
I'll listen. I'd like to know whatever it is you want us to know.
5. Parent Talk Training of Trainers Announcement [back to top]
Announcing two winter sessions of training of trainers in the Parent
January 9-11, 2003
Grand Rapids, MI
January 16-18, 2003
Email email@example.com for a full brochure
and registration materials. For direct inquiries, call (toll free) 877-360-1477.
The Key to Learning
by Chick Moorman
"I don't want anyone to see me changing clothes."
That's the way my grandson Austin expressed his concern about finding
a private place to change from his Tae Quon Do uniform to work clothes
recently. Coming from an 11-year-old boy, that seemed to me like a reasonable
wish. Then he took it to another level: "So I guess I won't be able to
help you clean the horse stalls today." Not exactly a reasonable conclusion.
We were in the middle of our Wednesday ritual: Austin's Tae Quon Do
lesson followed by a trip to the horse barn for stall cleaning, then a
return home for dinner. Austin typically changes his clothes in the restroom
at the barn on those Wednesdays. But this day, the key to the restroom
was missing, so his regular clothes-changing place was unavailable.
"Change in the tack room," I suggested.
"Someone might see me," came his response.
"Use the front seat of the truck," I offered, figuring the problem was
"What if one of the other boarders pulls up while I'm changing?" Austin
Fighting off the urge to explain that boarders of either sex would not
be the least bit interested in checking out an 11-year-old's underwear,
I bit my tongue and trotted out one of my favorite Parent Talk phrases.
"Austin, you always have more choices than you think you have."
"Can't think of any," he responded.
"Then let's think of some together," I suggested, as we began to walk
down the aisle between the stalls. "You always have more choices than
you think you have. How about changing in one of the stalls?"
"Someone might come," he responded.
Our walk moved outdoors, as at least one of us continued to search for
When I spotted my horse trailer, I knew I had the perfect solution.
"You can change in the trailer," I said, and I handed Austin the keys.
"Close the door behind you and no one will see."
I showed him which key opened the trailer door and then began cleaning
the first stall, assured that my grandson would soon be joining me. Several
minutes passed. Then more minutes passed. I finished one stall and began
another. I was about to look for Austin when he entered the barn, still
wearing his Tae Quon Do uniform.
"Grandpa, the key didn't fit and it broke off," he informed me. Not
fully believing what I had just heard, I examined the key. Sure enough,
half of it was missing. Thankfully, my curiosity rose faster than my frustration.
"Show me what happened," I suggested.
The broken key turned out to be the result of a classic case of miscommunication
mingled with false assumptions. I had assumed Austin knew to use the key
in the side door of the horse trailer, the one that led to the changing
room. He had figured the key went to the padlock on the back door where
the horses enter. The key fit the padlock just well enough to create the
illusion in Austin's mind that if he kept pushing, the key would eventually
open the padlock. He kept pushing. But hard as he pushed, the key wouldn't
go in any farther. So he switched to turning. When the lock still wouldn't
open, he turned harder.
Austin apparently wanted to go into the trailer more than the key wanted
to go into the lock. The key broke.
At times like these, I believe it's best to assume things happen for
a reason. Perhaps there was a lesson here. Better to focus on learning
lessons than to concentrate on what could have been or should have been.
"What did you learn during that lock situation with the horse trailer?"
I asked on the drive home.
"If it doesn't fit, don't force it," Austin replied.
Good thinking, I thought to myself. Better late than never, I couldn't
help but add. At the dinner table, Chelsea (Austin's 14-year-old sister),
Austin, and I talked about the key.
"Tell Chelsea what you learned today," I suggested.
"If it doesn't fit, don't force it," Austin repeated for his sister.
"I wonder where else in our lives we could use that advice?" I queried.
The answers came fast and furious. "In social groups," offered Chelsea.
"Doing a jigsaw puzzle," replied Austin. Other answers included using
a computer, trying to be someone you are not, trying to lift something
that is too heavy for you, reading ahead in your reader when the teacher
wants everyone on the same page, and parking a car in a space that's too
small for it.
Austin got out of helping with the stalls that Monday. I could have
made him change his clothes in the truck. I could have made him change
in a stall. I could have insisted he change in the tack room. I could
have forced the issue. But then we wouldn't have learned not to force
it if it doesn't fit.