A Word to the wise really is infuriating—and counterproductive!
Leading up to my Parent’s Group, I thought I would share with the community snippets of my approach, philosophy and experience in working with adolescents and young adults. These are insights that come from my clinical experience in working with both adolescents and their families, either in one-on-one therapy or parent-coaching situations.
I am often asked how I work with adolescents and why they seem to respond positively to my approach. It’s hard to explain exactly what I do, but the overall spirit of how I work (and how I encourage parents to be with their adolescent and young adult children) can be in part represented by the Latin phrase, ars est celare artem, “the art that conceals art.”
I believe the effectiveness in working with and parenting adolescents is found in a fluid, creative approach where less-is-more and where any “telegraphing” of actually helping, instructing, improving, or correcting behaviour, thoughts or ideas will result in the adolescent moving away even more. Resistance is often fuelled by instruction. How angering is it to be told what to do, or to be told what you’ve done is wrong, bad or flawed?
Hunter S. Thompson got it right when he said, “A word to the wise is infuriating.” And in being infuriating, it’s also counterproductive to growth and self-efficacy.
So, what do you do?
Well, sometimes you do absolutely “nothing.”
And by nothing, what I really mean is you listen for ways to “come along side” the adolescent in an effort to learn more about their world and felt experience. This way of working/not working with adolescents will lead to more positive results in the long run (like healthy communication in the family).
Certainly, it takes a bit of work to practice the “art that conceals art” but once there is a bit of mind-shift in realizing that the responsibility for change is really with the adolescent (how could it be any other way?!), this less-is-more approach can lead to positive changes.