Excerpts from Chapter 9

Plan Small to Support
the Changes Your Teen Wants

You have listened big to connect with your teen and build a bridge of communication. You have clarified narrow to identify his wise wants and some of his unrealistic thinking. You have looked wide to uncover exceptions as solutions that he can now practice with hopefulness.

Now you are ready to help your teen create a plan that he thinks will help him get what he wisely wants. If you have used these first three aspects of the LCLP process, a plan will probably seem obvious to you. But it still needs to be specified in concrete terms for your teen.

Small Bites, Not Large Gulps

How do you eat an elephant? One fork-full at a time! Living with an angry teen gives a parent lots of changes to pray for—elephant-size changes. Keep praying. But the plan you help your teen to develop must be incremental. It needs to have a one-fork-full focus.

You can help your teen recognize that change usually occurs in small steps by helping him think it through. This is the same way you’ve been helping him discover his wise wants, the connection between his choices and consequences, the need to do something different, and his exceptions. It just requires clear thinking. You are going to walk him through a process that will allow him to develop a one-fork-full plan over which he has a genuine sense of ownership. In the past, adults have given your teen the impression that his ideas “probably won’t work” or that he “needs to be more realistic.” Even worse, he may have felt that adults don’t listen to his ideas at all. “They just want me to do what they want me to do!” This time, it’s going to be different.

You are going to be satisfied with and totally supportive of a small, simple plan. In most cases it is best if this plan focuses on just one or two areas of change, selected by your teen, for a limited period of time, also determined by your teen. When an angry teen sees that changing one small area of behavior puts him on the path to solving his problems as he defines them, it can sometimes set in motion a wonderful chain reaction. Like falling dominos, one change can lead to another, then another, and on and on. When you plan small with your teen, you also send the message that he can make good choices, that you can be pleased by what he does, and that he doesn’t have to climb Mount Everest or do the impossible to impress you.

The illustrations below sound exactly like what they are: accounts of frustrated teens who have had angry reactions in the past, but who are no longer dominated by their anger. Their examples are useful because by the time you get to the Plan Small component in your conversation with your teen, there has been a change in his disposition, too. He has come to be more like these teens than unlike them. Like them, he is looking for a way to get what he wisely wants.

Teens often think in vague, idealistic, sometimes grandiose categories. But change takes place in the concrete, not in the abstract. This final part of your conversation with your angry teen will draw his thinking into a plan that is feasible, specific, and measureable.

…………

Wrap up: Plan Small

Goals of “not talking back to mom,” “not sleeping in class,” “not spending lots of time instant messaging,” and the like, are usually not going to help a young person. Clear, concrete, positive goals are what’s needed to produce the changes and outcomes your teen wants. In his exceptions he has discovered specific things he’s done in the past that have made a difference. You can help him take this information and create a plan that is small enough but tangible enough to be hopeful, realistic, and desirable. This will make wise, healthy, God-honoring choices more attractive to him.

Read excerpts from Chapter 10

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