By Tara Miller, guest blogger
The mother of a 16-year-old girl decided that instead of giving her daughter relationship advice– which she knew would likely be unwelcome and unheeded– she’d take a coaching approach instead. She’d ask questions and reflect back only what she was hearing. So she said to her daughter, “I know you’re struggling with your relationship with your boyfriend right now and considering whether to break up with him or not. I have something I think might be helpful. What if I ask you five questions, and just listen to own responses without giving any advice or feedback or suggestions?”
“Well…” said the daughter uncertainly, “What are the questions?”
“They are five basic questions that can be applied to almost any situation: What’s working? What’s not working? What are you learning? What needs to change? What’s next?”
“I guess those sound safe enough… not like they’re trying to push me into making a particular decision.”
“Okay, what’s working?”
“We have fun sometimes when we’re hanging out. He can be really funny and I like going out.”
“Also, it’s really nice just to have a boyfriend. It’s not like I’d be going out with anyone else if I weren’t going out with him.”
“What’s not working?”
“Well, he can be really argumentative sometimes. And he talks a lot… often about things I’m not very interested in like video games. That can be boring. Sometimes it’s hard to me to get much airtime in our conversations. And when I do, he kind of dismisses my opinions if I disagree with him.”
“What are you learning?”
“Some of the things I thought I wanted in a boyfriend are important– like wanting someone who is outgoing because I’m really not. But also I’m finding there are limits to that. Maybe being outgoing, but not talking ALL the time.”
“So you’re re-thinking through what qualities are important to you?”
“Yes. And I’d like someone I agree with on some basic beliefs. I’m surprised how differently we think about important issues like politics and what’s important in life and how we interact with our friends.”
“What needs to change?”
Without a breath or a pause, she responded, “He does!” Then both mother and daughter started laughing. Because when you realize the whole person needs to change, rather than just making adjustments in a relationship, the decision has become clear. This couple was simply not a good fit.
When they had recovered, the mother asked, “What’s next?” And they talked through a plan how for to break up in a respectful and appropriate way that would take into account that they still had to see each other in various settings.
These five questions can be applied to just about any situation where you want to leave a person room to reflect and consider an issue without being told what to do. Simply ask the five questions, asking “anything else?” to make sure you have gotten all of their thinking, and give them space to process. You’ll be amazed at how much becomes clear and how empowering the process is for teens.
Tweetable: You’ll be amazed at how much becomes clear to teens when a parent simply asks these five questions, asking, “anything else?” to make sure you’ve got all of their thinking–and give them space to process. Click to Tweet