One small change can make all the difference

The great thing about January is that despite freezing cold temperatures and a significant backslide in “good will toward men,” this month also brings with it a fresh start. A new year is ahead of us, and with it, we see new possibilities and opportunities for change. We are optimistic that 12 months from now, we will look back on this year with fondness.

I appreciate this aspect of January. In the past, I have created a list for the upcoming year of all that I hope to accomplish. That list has included everything from taking a dance class to repairing a damaged relationship, and everything in between. The relationship is the one I want to focus on today, as I’m fairly confident that everyone out there sees room for improvement in at least one relationship in their lives. For many of you, we are speaking specifically about your relationships with your teenagers.

Teenagers are difficult; there’s no getting around that. They are moody and unbalanced, sometimes surprising you with their maturity, sometimes confounding you with their childishness. The young people in your household who want to experiment with drugs and sex are the same ones who want to watch cartoons and endless YouTube videos of Stupid Cat Tricks. They are an enigma, seemingly impossible to understand, let alone live with.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You CAN have a pleasant home environment. You CAN enjoy spending time with your teenagers. You CAN get them to help with chores, do their homework, and wake up for school on their own. It comes from changing one small thing, assessing the impact, and then changing another, constantly tweaking and adjusting until you find a balance you can live with. There is no time like the present to make that change. It doesn’t have to be profound or prodigious or time consuming or labor intensive. Just change one small thing, and see what happens.

What, you ask, qualifies as a “small thing”? Well, you might start with your tone of voice. Really monitor how you talk when you ask your children to do something. Pay attention to what frustration sounds like when you speak. Ask yourself if you need to yell, or if speaking calmly would get the point across just as effectively, if not more so. Don’t worry about changing anything else. Just change your tone and monitor the results.

Or change the hastiness with which you say yes or no to a request. Make your “one small thing” be taking an extra minute to think before replying. That’s it. That’s all. Then monitor the results.

Parenting is difficult, no doubt, but it’s not impossible, and it certainly doesn’t need to be trying and exhausting, at least most of the time. Just ask yourself, what is one small thing that I can do differently? Then put that action into place and see what happens.


2 thoughts on “One small change can make all the difference

  1. I love the advice about ‘tone.’ Teens have incredible bull**** antennae and tone is everything. Sometimes you as a parent can be saying something extremely reasonable, but the moment your kid hears a frustrated or contemptuous tone, they will turn you off. So how to change your tone? I think the key is to take a breath and actually give your feelings a moment to change. Is your frustration or anger going to help, or can you find a spot of compassion or humor to come from? This does NOT mean you have to change your message, by the way, but just how it sounds. Try it again, and again. Watch your kid’s body language, willingness to listen. I agree with Rebecca that tiny changes can have a big impact.


  2. Oh yes, my kids have brought it to my attention when I’m frustrated or they feel that I’m being condescending. Nine times out of ten, I have no idea that I’m coming across that way. But as you said, taking just one minute to collect ourselves and wait for the wave of emotion to pass can make all the difference in the way we come across to our kids.


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