Saturday, July 25, 2009

How to cope when your teenager criticises you

Over at Child Caring, we're talking about dealing with negative feedback. It's something parents encounter regularly, whether it be from other parents in a Mommy Drive-By setting or from coworkers or a spouse. But it's especially difficult to deal with when the harsh words are coming from your own kid.

I chatted with author Sam Chapman, whose new book, "The No-Gossip Zone," offers tips on dealing with negative feedback in an office setting; the advice can easily be applied to parents and kids as well.
Teenagers are feeling their way into adulthood with hormones raging and moods roiling; they get angry for good reasons, but every once in a while they seem to be in a bad mood just because the sun has the audacity to shine that day. They lash out -- and you, the parent, are often the closest target.

It can be stressful to hear negative criticism from your teen, but if you tune it out
automatically, you miss what could be an important gift, says Sam Chapman, author of "The No-Gossip Zone."

Stop looking for the diplomacy from your teenager. Your teen is someone who knows you well, who doesn't have that filter, he points out. "Who's going to give you the real truth? That child."

Some say that teenagers act like children if you don't treat them like adults, but Chapman disagrees. "I actually think they’re acting a lot like adults. Just badly behaved adults," the father of three boys says. "Our job is to show them the boundaries. But, during the process, you can’t ignore their feelings. Three or four years of hormones and arguing... they’re still one of your closest family members, and they still know you better than anybody. Ignore them at your own peril."

Chapman's book is geared toward establishing a healthy work environment in the corporate world (he's the CEO of Empower Public Relations in Chicago), but his suggestions for transformational learning translates easily to family life. While you can't glean much good from straight criticism or insults -- and you'll probably hear some of those at some point, too, with teenagers in the house -- actual feedback is very important. If your child yells "You love my brother more than you love me!" listen, and respond by accepting the feedback and making change, Chapman suggests.

“My child is telling me he needs more love. He’s blaming me -- that part’s not important," Chapman says as he explains the thought process. "What’s important is that I’m someone in his life who can give him more love, and he wants it so bad he’s angry about it.”

Here are four tips from "The No-Gossip Zone" for learning how turn negative feedback into something positive:

1.) Accept the feedback. By accepting (even just slightly) that everyone has something valuable that they can teach us about who we are, we open up to a realm of creativity, growth, and success that we never thought possible. This means accepting negative feedback with an open mind and discovering what it is that you need to improve about your performance.

2.) Try not to be defensive. This will take some practice. It is our natural reaction to immediately leap to our own defense whenever someone puts us down. We immediately come up with several different rebuttals, all of which are aimed to prevent us from taking a single iota of responsibility for the situation at hand. However, if you can take a step back, a deep breath, and remove yourself from the situation for a moment, you might realize that you are being told something worthwhile, something which can help you grow personally and professionally.

3.) Don't get swamped by your emotions. You have the right to get upset whenever you hear negative feedback. It is perfectly natural to feel sad, angry, or any variation thereof when you hear that your performance needs work. Allow yourself to feel those emotions, but don’t allow yourself to become them. Otherwise, you will be so busy “being” angry or sad that you won’t have the emotional energy or wherewithal to realize where you stand to improve.

4.) Make requests, not complaints. At the end of this process, you are more than welcome to share your feedback with your giver; just make sure your feedback
isn’t in the form of a complaint. The gift is much easier to receive when it’s in the form of a request instead.
Do you have a teen or a tween at home? How do you cope with the negative feedback they give??

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