Having a good team with members who work well together is essential for success in any arena that people work with other people. Your family is a team, and the more each member appreciates the importance of their role, the more your family will succeed and thrive.
As parents, we have the opportunity to empower our teens by helping them understand that we are on their team.
When teenagers understand that you are on their side, they are more secure, confident, content and joyful. The challenge is to communicate, in their language, that you are on their team.
Following are a few suggestions for how to convey to your teenagers that you are on their team.
Remind Yourself Often that you are on the Same Team
In any close relationship (ie. spousal, parent-child, sibling, etc.), issues come up that elevate conflict. Tempers rise, arguments ensue, stuff starts flying across the room (well, hopefully not!). Before, during and after these situations, it’s important to remember that you want to be on your teenager’s side.
Think of the conflict scenario as three different stools. On one sits a teenager. The parent sits on the second, and the issue sits on the third.
What often happens is that the parent and the teenager see the other person as the problem and fight each other over the issue. They find themselves on opposing sides.
The key to being on the same team is to remind ourselves that the issue is the problem, not our teenager. Instead of siding with the issue against our teenager, we need to join up with our teenager and fight the issue.
They may see the issue differently, have a different perspective that we do not agree with or any number of different ways of thinking than we do about the issue. However, we love them and want them to succeed. We need to be on their team.
So, we need remind ourselves often that we are on our teen’s team. Before situations arise, we prompt ourselves. During situations that have potential of elevating, we refresh our memory and keep the right perspective. And after situations that didn’t go the way we had hoped, we reflect on what we could do next time to remember.
Tell Them that you are on the Same Team
Words without action don’t mean much. However, when our actions back up what we say, words are very powerful.
Teenagers need to hear that we love them often. They need to be shown that we love them often. Both our words and actions of love show that we are on their side. We also need to tell them we are on their team often.
The most obvious time to communicate that we are on our teens team is when an issue begins to cause you to take different sides. As soon as you notice this is happening, the best thing to do is to stop, and tell your teenager you are on the same team and ask how you can work together to figure it out.
This won’t necessarily end every argument, however it will bring the needed perspective that can help things move forward rather than causing more harm.
Use the Team Metaphor
When teenagers know and feel that parents are on their team, they will be more ready to contribute as members. People who know they are appreciated, belong and desired as important members are more interested in being a part of the success of the team.
As you begin talking about being on your teen’s side, you can talk about your family as a team and use the team metaphor to explain the responsibility each member has to the success of your family.
Your teenager is an important part of your family. Communicate this lovingly and often. Give them responsibility, and expect them to play their role.
Think of yourself as a coach who cares deeply about each player on the team. These kinds of coaches take time after important plays to debrief what went right and what can be improved. They don’t yell or berate, but they do expect the best from each player.
Expecting your teenager to play their role means that when they don’t, they need to be held accountable. This does not mean that they need to be punished or made to feel terrible. It means that they need to be reminded of their role and empowered to get the job done.
Communicating that we are on our teen’s team is an important step to reducing conflict. Using the team metaphor for your family also helps the family succeed. It is also a valuable life lesson because people work together in teams all the time. Helping your teenagers be team players at home will empower them to work well with other people throughout their life – win win!