I have a riddle for you.
In this wonderful intervention by Tony Robbins, an eighteen year old girl stands up complaining of suicidal thoughts and feelings. And maybe an hour later, Tony is working not only with her but more directlywith her mother, helping her to be more courageous in her life. When the mother became more courageous, the girl was no longer suicidal.
So how does that work? How is it possible that a child’s life-or-death predicament, at age eighteen, when most young people are leaving the nest and all about pursuing their own lives, can traced back to an emotion in the mother? Is it that the mother’s courage healed her daughter? How did Tony know to “go there?”
It’s the same reason why, as Strategic Interventionists, someone may come to us with a money problem and a relationship problem – and we end up solving both problems with the same strategy. We might get someone complaining about their weight or health, and they’ll come out not only with a health breakthrough, but a transformation of their career. And why is that? Because all of these areas of your life are on the same network – and that network is you and your relationships – and for this reason you can also solve many problems at once.
This is especially the case in your relationship with your teenagers or adult children. Why? Because they are figuring you out. They grew up following your example, and as teenagers they go through a phase called “differentiation” where they struggling to understand your choices so that they can learn to make their own choices as adults. This is a positive but often confusing process for your teen or young adult – so here are some steps for helping them with it.
1. Understand and appreciate your child’s strengths and personal style. Human beings process life in different ways. Some of us are primarily visual in the way we represent the world to ourselves. Visual people tend to communicate quickly and to the point. People who process in an auditory mode often frustrate visual people, because they listen, but don’t emphasize eye contact the way visual people need it. And people who process kinesthetically usually take longer to absorb information and communications, but once absorbed, they act from a deeper well of feeling. However your child processes, you need to appreciate this as a strength. Get curious about your differences! Sandra’s mother didn’t know what to make of Sandra’s long silences, and so they grew apart. Now she knows that Sandra operates from a great depth of kinesthetic feeling. Take a moment and think about how your family members process – are they more visual, auditory, or kinesthetic? What misunderstandings happen when people fail to understand each others modes – just as when Candy and her mother communicate quickly and visually, Sandra feels slower and left out. How could you value and appreciate that person’s differences from you – hey, that’s part of the richness of life!
2. Reconnect. If you want to influence a teen or young adult, the first step is universal: reconnect and build a base for your relationship. Tony reconnected Sandra and her mother by understanding their modalities – Sandra is kinesthetic and needs time to experience the depth of her feelings, while her mother is visual and craves visual stimulus. When Tony asked them to stand face to face, the mother had the visual experience of her daughter looking intently at her, eye to eye, while the daughter had the time to access her depths of feeling and communicate her emotion kinesthetically to her mom. This stimulated both the visual and the kinesthetic and built a “bridge” of feeling between the two. What could you invite your child to do with you that your child would enjoy? Enjoy a comfortable walk, a movie, or a meal together. Young people enjoy doing things, so if you can, plan something you can do together. And they often enjoy eating! Is there something your child would like to experience but doesn’t get the opportunity? Put in some hours with your child – on their terms – with no agenda or stressful topics of conversation. By simply enjoying something together, you are adding to the foundation of your relationship, which will increase your influence with them when you need it.
3. Be courageous. The most effective way to influence any human being – but most of all your child – is through your example. Children grow up in the shadow of their parents example, and you should assume that whatever you feel in your private life, they know, and they are responding to it in their way. Are you afraid of a relationship, or afraid of moving forward in your life? Do you beat yourself up with guilt, insecurity, feelings of inadequacy, or frustration? Your child knows and feels it, and their decisions are being affected by your internal patterns. Sandra didn’t know why she felt suicidal despair – but Tony discovered that her mother was afraid of her daughter’s emotional depth – because the mother feared deep relationships. When the mother had the courage to “go deep” with her daughter, she was able to understand Sandra and connect at a level that healed the sibling rivalries in the family. How could you demonstrate your courage to your child? Show them that you love them no matter what? Show them that you trust and believe in them? Show them you have the courage to accept and appreciate yourself? You don’t need to say anything about this – it actually works best if you don’t. Just let your child see that you know how to face your fears and grow.
4. Give your kid ways to help you. One part of being a teen or young adult is accepting that you are gaining in your ability to contribute in the world. Find something your kid can do to help you – preferably something your child feels is meaningful. Ask them for help with your computer or cell phone settings. Let them feel like the expert, and appreciate them for their abilities. Do this in small ways, and it will bring great balance to the relationship.
One of the biggest mistakes we ever make is the underestimate the influence we have on others. We think we have to argue logically with people, instead of just showing them another way to be. We imagine that we can indulge in self-sabotage without negatively influencing our family. We fail to remember the healing power of simply listening to and appreciating the people in our life. Don’t make this mistake. One quality of a great leader is to help people understand your choices and your intentions. As a parent, when you spend time helping your children understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, or why you did what you did in the past, even if it’s a mistake, you’re showing leadership qualities. This will reassure them and enable them to ask the questions they need to ask.
We hope this helps you, and please let us know your thoughts. Your comments are appreciated
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