Most parents know that how they relate to their adolescent matters, but they often do not appreciate the variety of ways in which this influence is so. Here are 10 aspects of the psychology of social treatment they might want to keep in mind.
1)HOW WE TREAT OTHERS INFLUENCES OUR SOCIAL REPUTATION. Based on how they find us to live with, they give us a rating or designation describing how we are to relate to. So when troubled or in trouble, the teenager tends to approach the "go to" parent who has become identified with showing concern more often than the "keep at a distance" parent who has always been quick to criticize. By reviews of our behavior we are known.
Have you earned the reputation with your adolescent that you want?
2)HOW WE TREAT OTHERS IS SELF DEFINING. Treat others well and we treat our self as a well-meaning person, treat them badly and we treat our self as someone who is not. So when a parent regularly loses his or her temper at the teenager, that parent treats them selves as an angrily explosive person. How we act with others is how we treat ourselves.
Do you like the person you become when interacting with your teenager?
3)HOW WE TREAT OTHERS IS HOW WE ENCOURAGE THEM TO TREAT US. People are imitative in relationships, often responding back to each other in kind. So when a parent yells at the teenager to stop yelling or argues with the teenager to stop arguing, yelling and arguing is likely what the parent will get back, while acts of courtesy can beget courtesy in response. We often receive the kind of treatment that we give.
Do you model the kind of behavior you want your teenager to return?
4)HOW WE TREAT OTHERS INFLUENCES HOW THOSE PEOPLE TREAT OTHERS. People can pass on the kind of treatment they are given. So when parents send their teenager off to school with positive expectations, that young person may be more inclined to be optimistic in his or dealings with others, just as an irritable send off can increase the likelihood of being irritable with others. Treatment given can carry on.
Are you treating your teenager the way you want them to respond to others?
5)HOW WE TREAT OTHERS CONTRIBUTES TO THE PATTERN OF TREATMENT WE PRACTICE. People are creatures of habit, repeating patterns of behavior they have practiced before. Acting patiently or impatiently with their teenager increases the likelihood that parents will act that way again. Present action shapes future behavior.
Are you treating your teenager now how you want to keep on treating them later?
6)HOW WE TREAT OTHERS SHAPES HOW THEY ANTICIPATE BEING TREATED. Treatment we give now gives others grounds for later treatment to expect. The teenager uses past parental behavior - being relaxed or tense around grades -- to predict how they will respond when the next report card arrives. Experience influences expectation.
Are you treating your teenager in a way that is consistent with how you want them to anticipate your acting and reacting later?
7)HOW WE TREAT ONE PERSON IN OUR FAMILY CONTRIBUTES TO THE SOCIAL CLIMATE IN WHICH WE ALL LIVE. Each act of treatment we give to one person in our community of relationships impacts on them all. When parents come home after a tough day's work it makes a difference to the entire family whether they take accumulated stress and irritation out on their abrasive adolescent, or simply declare how they have had a hard day and then calmly move on. In a human system, no act of social treatment stands alone.
Are you treating your teenager the way you want to impact the entire family?
8)HOW WE TREAT OTHERS PROVIDES A MODEL FOR OTHERS TO FOLLOW. Every act of treatment provides a lesson to others in how to act. So when the parent commits a mistake with the teenager and admits it, apologizes, and makes amends, the teenager can learn to do the same. By example, a parent becomes a leader.
Are you demonstrating the kind of conduct that you want your teenager to learn?
9)HOW WE TREAT OTHERS CAN AFFECT HOW OTHERS EVALUATE THEMSELVES. In our response to others they see a reflection of themselves. When parents continually criticize a teenager that young person can esteem them selves less; when parents continually appreciate the teenager's strengths, that young person can esteem them selves more. Treatment acts like a mirror in which people can see some aspect of their own image.
Are you treating your teenager in a way that is consistent with how you want them to view them selves?
10)HOW WE TREAT OTHERS AFFECTS THEIR FEELINGS AND OUR OWN. Treatment has emotional impact both for the giver and the receiver. When the teenager feels falsely suspected by the parent who then realizes that the suspicion is unfounded, the teenager can feel hurt and the parent can feel sorry. Actions have emotional effect.
Are you treating your teenager in ways that generate more good feelings in the relationship than bad?
In the heat of the moment, parents can forget that how they interact with their adolescent has many levels of formative impact - on the teenager, on themselves, on the relationship. Since treatment they give is a matter of choice, it is worth keeping in mind possible effects of choices they are making. Treatment by parents matters.
Next week's entry: Adolescence and parental authority.