Working with older children can be both a frustrating and rewarding experience. Teens and tweens are in a similar stage as that of a two year old. They want to be independant and spread their wings. Like two year olds, teens are not able to predict the consequences of the adult-like behaviors in which they are participating . It is their young age and inexperience that causes the real danger.
Mentoring kids this age is a five step process: teaching, coaching, counseling, negotiating and listening.
- Teaching is discussing and training them with real life skills. Cooking for instance… Let’s say you are teaching how to make a meatloaf. After gathering the ingredients, you make the meatloaf, explaining what you’re doing, and why you’re using particular ingredients. Once the meatloaf is in the oven, you then sit down and talk about the process.
- Coaching: For the next meatloaf, you walk them through and coach as they go through the process. Giving them guidance and tips as they put together their own meatloaf.
- Counseling has two forms. First, is the guidance you give during the coaching process. The second comes after the event processing. This is when you help them to process their thoughts and feelings regarding the event. It does not matter if it is making meatloaf or a date gone wrong counseling is about listing, validating feelings and thoughts. Counseling is the time to be supportive. This is not the time to administer discipline or talk about wrong actions taken.
- Negotiating: Then a negotiation discussion, regarding ingredients, may take place or negotiations may not be needed.
- Listening: Finally, you need to listen as they talk about the meatloaf making process, reassure, be honest, and plan for the next time.
What if negotiation is needed? There are three principles to consider.
1) Rules are not negotiable. Routines such as bedtime and curfew can be negotiated within reason. Rules-are the boundaries that are set to keep everyone safe from hurt, harm, or danger. This includes mental, emotional, and physical. Routines are the ways we go about daily living.
2) Angry words, hostility, and sarcasm end negotiations immediately. I believe attitude and disrespect during negotiations is a deal breaker. Negotiations end with these behaviors. If the caregiver chooses, later negotiations can be reopened. However, I would caution to make that be a rare occurrence.
3) Negotiations always end in a win-win; it’s a compromise on both sides. It is important for the caregiver to make sure to help the teen see the win-win. Once they see this, they will start to look for a win-win before even beginning to try to negotiate with you.
Teens and tweens are emotional creatures, as adults we need to use the mentoring process to help them. Sometimes this means ignoring some attitudes and focusing on what is being said. However, if they are trying to negotiate something with you this is not the time to ignore attitude. Negotiations should involve a win-win for both the teen/tween and the caregiver; avoid winning and losing. The goal is to teach them how to get their needs met without tromping on someone else’s. I will caution you to make sure to get the understanding firmly in place that it is routines and not rules which are negotiable; because teens/tweens will try to negotiate everything. Ground rules are needed to keep this process even keeled. Negotiation is an important part of the mentoring process. It allows the teen/tween the chance to feel like they have some control, while allowing the caregiver room to keep a better eye on the thinking and decision making ability of the older child they care for and about.
Barbara Harvey is the Executive Director of Parents, Teachers, and Advocates a group specializing in helping parents and caregivers to raise children to become remarkable adults. She has both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. She is the author of Journeys Through Parenthood Volume One An Educator Guides You Down the Path to Quality Child Care, now available on Smashwords.com