By Trenna Ahlstrom
Even after a teen is ready to change, it can be difficult for parents to know just how to help. Using cues can be a powerful method of behavior change.
The previous two entries have discussed types of cues and methods of cueing. The final entry in the series will illustrate tools for cueing.
One of the most effective means of giving a cue is to provide a model for the behavior that you want to see. Most parents try to provide a good example for their children, but finding a role model is somewhat different. When choosing a model, it’s important to find the right person. The right role model will likely be close to your teen in age and ability. This will help your teen to see himself or herself in the role model.
For example, when young women are taking part in a hike and they see an active, fit man completing the hike, this makes the young women more likely to give up! However, if a group of young women see another woman complete the hike, then the young women are more likely to finish the hike too.
When the young women see another woman succeeded, it helps the young women to believe that they can succeed too.
While you are working with your teen, remember that changing behavior can be an emotional process. Strong emotions cause real physiological responses.
For example, fear elicits an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. Fear can even cause people to sweat or start shaking.
Most of the time, these physiological changes that come with strong emotion can make it more difficult for your teen to be receptive to cues. However, if you are aware of what your teen is feeling, then cues can be made more effective.
In fact, similar emotional and physical responses can be interpreted differently. A racing heart and raised blood pressure could be interpreted as excitement rather than fear. Guide your teen to seeing change as exciting rather than frightening.
The last tool that can be used to help your teen is using each success as a metaphor to build future successes.
Imagine that your teen learns a new skill, for example, how to build a bow fire. He or she actually learns more than the skill itself.
By learning this one skill, your teen develops a meaningful sense of mastery. This experience can increase his or her efficacy, not just in regard to making a fire, but in his or her life in general. This can lead to increased confidence and self-reliance. Use metaphor to extend the reach of any positive experience.
When teens are struggling, there is not only one cause. When teens are ready to accept help, there is not any one thing that will help them get back on track. Using appropriate cues, along with other behavioral strategies, can be part of the process of helping your teen succeed.