Talking To Teenagers: Use “I” messages

One expert, Dr.Robert Schwebel, offers this advice about parenting teenagers, which the whatyousay panel believes is valuable when you talk with your child about any serious topic, not just drugs:

“Begin by expressing your feelings and concerns.  An important part of the process is being able to honestly express emotions in a disciplined way.  This is accomplished through the use of “I” and “my” messages….These are statements of personal feelings and concerns. They are not judgments about your children, especially not “you” statements, as in “You are an irresponsible kid.”

“I” and “my” statements begin with causes such as these:

– “My concerns are…”

– “My fears are…”

– “I get alarmed when I hear that…”

An example of an “I” statement is:  “When I hear you have smoked pot, I get scared….”

The immediate reaction of your child may be, “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.”

Rather than getting into a power struggle, consider your statements at this early stage of the dialogue as planting seeds. You are simply expressing your feelings. There will be plenty of opportunities to express them again later….You could say:  “We clearly see things differently. But I am concerned and wanted you to know it.”

One of the skills that teenagers often need to learn is to identify and express their feelings. If you can handle your own feelings in these discussions, you will help your children by providing important feedback, showing that you care, and modeling positive ways to communicate feelings.”

This is an excerpt about teaching about drugs to teenagers, parenting teenagers, and drugs and teenagers from “Saying No is Not Enough” by Robert Schwebel, PhD.


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Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and communication strategist. His book “TheWords Lincoln Lived By” is in its 23rd printing and “Time Tactics of Very Successful People” is in its 43rd printing. His training video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions and annual meetings all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, call 404-435-2225. Learn more at Atlanta Speakers Bureau or at his website. His latest book “Lincoln and Obama” has just been released by Audible.
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