By Trenna Ahlstrom
Watching your teen struggle is a unique challenge. Even when your teen is ready to change, it can be difficult to know what you can do to help. One technique that you can use to help your teen is using cues.
The first entry in this series described different types of cues. It touched on ways that cues can lead to a chain reaction of good behavior. This entry will elaborate on starting and continuing that chain reaction. The final entry in the series, coming next week, will explore tools you can use to make cues more effective.
In order to start the chain reaction, it is important to understand where your son or daughter “is at”. Wait for your teen to decide to make a change, don’t decide for him or her.
The first step is to get your son or daughter to feel invested in the idea of changing his or her behavior. Engage your teen by strengthening your relationship. Demonstrate trust and empathy. Whenever possible, try to make the behavioral change fun.
Next, encourage your teen’s self-awareness. This will help your teen to see the need for change. Practicing Mindfulness training, participating in Motivational Interviewing, and Reflective Listening are three methods that can help improve your teen’s self-awareness.
After your teen has developed a degree of self-awareness, try to help him or her internalize the need to change. Help your teen to rewrite the story of his or her life. Counseling techniques like Narrative Therapy and Visualization work can help.
When your teen is finally ready, your first job in creating the cueing event is not to change your teen’s mind or behavior, but to create a situation where your teen wants to change his or her own mind. When your teen starts thinking differently, he or she will want to act differently too. Act as a guide. Create conditions through verbal cues or nonverbal cues that can guide your teen to the next step.
Decide on a task or behavior that you want to happen. There may be more than one behavior that you would like to see. Try breaking the task down into a series of small behaviors.
Get your teen to do the first behavior in the chain using cues. Then guide your teen to the next step in the chain. Help your teen to reflect on his or her actions and he or she moves through each step in the process.
Start with something that is small and easy. Continue until you see behavior change. Many parents make the mistake of asking teens to perform a complicated behavior. A corresponding mistake is packing too much into a single cue. Neither path works well. Simplicity changes behavior.
With the right cue, a teen who is given cues during the first ten feet will climb another ten feet without prompting. The effective use of cues can lead to a variety of other behavioral changes. Next week, the final entry in this series will explore tools that can make cues more effective.