How many times have you told your children not to walk and text at the same time? You probably can’t even count that high! It seems like a no-brainer, but as parents, we have to be careful not to expect the same logical assessments from our teens that we can make as adults. If we’d had phones at that age, we would have required just as many reminders, because it turns out that the adolescent brain requires repetition to learn. And I don’t just mean three or four, I mean MANY.
Adults who can convey the same message in different ways to their children have a far better chance of having the message stick. As you well know, the adolescent brain seeks out “risky” behavior not to torture us parents but because their brain tells them to do so. Thus, a good way to practice this technique is with the topic of safety. For example, if you want your child to begin to make smart choices that will help her/him stay safe, you could say, “Don’t focus on whether you could get caught — you probably won’t. Focus on whether you could get hurt.” While you could also deliver the same message by saying, “when the adults are around, we help to keep you safe. When we’re not around, staying safe is entirely your job.” Yup! Two ways of delivering the same message and you’ll need to say it over and over again because you never know when it will sink in, but when it does … it sticks!
Spark the Conversation: There’s no real easy way to convince your child that you’re not nagging when you repeat something many times. But picking your repetition battles could be key to having a receptive audience. Promise your girl that you won’t nag about the little things, and she can agree to pay more attention to the things you do repeat. For example, telling her “Put away your clean laundry” 14 times in a day could be overkill. But reminding her a few times a day to look up from her phone and nurture her real life relationships is a valuable suggestion. Just be sure to change it up — today, ask her to join you for a walk; tomorrow, invite a neighbor to come over and bake. You might get tired of telling her, but when it finally does stick, you’ll be so glad you did!