When a child, a tween, or a teen takes the initiative to share a big idea with a parent, coach, teacher, pastor or any other adult, for that matter, the most powerful response is a simple...YES!
In a developmental relationship one of the key roles of the adult is to support the youth. Listen carefully to the emotions the youth uses when sharing her idea. If it is important to her, respond to that emotion, “Yes. I’ll bet you can make that happen.”
There is plenty of time a bit later to ask about the details: “How do you plan to do that?”, “What are your options for paying for it?”, “What impact do you think this will have on others?”
If you respond immediately with your own adult doubts you will often come to the conclusion that the youth's plan is off, losing the chance to help her work through the issues she may not have thought about. Unintentionally, you may define your relationship in terms of your power to block their ideas rather than your willingness to support their desire to step up and speak out.
If, on the other hand, you respond with your enthusiasm for her and her idea, you are in effect saying: “Tell me more!” This will open a lot more opportunity to learn what the youth is thinking.
Leonard Bernstein's quote from above in more fullness states, “I'm no longer quite sure what the question is, but I do know that the answer is yes.” The camp counselor, team coach, teacher or parent who gives a youth the opportunity - each time they meet - to speak for themself and define themself, is best positioned to help that child grow and mature.
If you sense that kids are not listening to you, try listening to them first and remember...
...the answer is YES!
- uLEAD Board Vice-Chair