Telling and lecturing as discipline are generally ineffective with young people who are trying to assert their independence. Besides, when young people become adolescents, they become “experts” in everything. Just try telling a teenager something and see how far you get. This phenomenon is captured in a quotation attributed to Mark Twain:
When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant that I could hardly stand to have him around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished how much he had learned in seven years.
You can visualize the scene. You are talking to your teenage son and attempting to inform him of the disadvantages of what he wants to do. You make your case rather successfully. However, your youngster perceives the situation quite differently. Did you notice the glaze in his eyes? The youngster’s self-talk is: “I’m being lectured again; my parent is trying to control me.”
Trying to persuade adolescents by telling them what to do or what not to do is too often not only ineffective but it can actually become counterproductive if the advice is not followed. The following bears repeating and is considered a universal truth: When young people are told they have to do something, they don’t want to do it. Using reason often has little effect; teenagers are, despite all of their insecurities, so sure that they know better and are always right!
Think of how you feel when someone tells you that you have to do something; it prompts a negative feeling. In situations like this, our immediate self-talk often sounds like, “I don’t like this” or “I’m not going to do that.” The term for this automatic reaction to perceived coercion is known as “counterwill,” which is a topic discussed frequently in this blog. Simply type “counterwill” in the search box above and you’ll find much on the topic.