Finding the Middle Path

Finding the Middle Path

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Parenthood is not an easy job.  It is one of the most important jobs, we all know.  Frequently, at Hartstein Psychological Services, we discuss the importance of negotiation, and finding the middle path.  Often, the responses we get from the teens include: “that’s not fair!” or “why can’t they just say yes????”  The comments from parents include, “Why can’t they just listen?” or “I give up.”

The truth is, it isn’t easy for either side to recognize the validity in another’s statement.  It is especially difficult when emotions are flying and logic is lacking.  It also becomes a great challenge to be willing to hear what the other person is saying when you feel that your answer or position is the only one.

One of the things we teach at Hartstein Psychological is how to unstick conflicts by “finding the middle path.”  Does this mean you have to give up or give in?  Absolutely not.  It means working together to find the truth in both sides of an argument, and determining if it is at all possible to meet in the middle, thereby everyone succeeds in getting some of what they want.  In a more layman’s way, it’s finding a balanced compromise.

This sounds easy, right?  Of course not.  It’s challenging to be open to the idea of letting go of your firm beliefs to negotiate with your child about expectations.  Interestingly, the more willing you are to create a middle path, the better your relationship with your teen will be.

In order to begin this process there are a few things to consider:

1) Be open-minded: Don’t decide going into a conversation that you are going to listen, but still say no.  Open up your ears, and your mind, to what your teen has to say.  It is possible that his argument has merit and deserves a fair chance.

2) Catch your judgments: If you are judgmental and make those judgments clear, the conversation will shut down before it begins, creating more conflict not less.  You don’t have to agree.  You do have to listen openly.

3) Validate: Validation recognizes the other person’s feelings, thoughts and actions and let’s your teen know that you are listening and present.  Validation does not mean you agree.  It is hard to struck a balance here, and it is important to let your teen know that you hear her, even if you aren’t going to change your position.

4) Use “both-and:” When we speak from a place of “either-or”, we present only two options…yours and mine.  If we can speak from a place of “both-and,” it promotes discourse and multiple options.  It allows for discussion rather than a tug-of-war.

5) Be willing to give to get: Sometimes adults are wrong.  Sometimes we make decisions in our emotion mind that isn’t helpful to building mastery or independence in the teens in our lives. It may be time to negotiate on some things (not on all), and see what happens.  You might be surprised at your teen’s reaction.

Letting go is hard. Finding a satisfactory balance is hard.  Working with your teen to find a middle path, although hard, is incredibly important to building a positive relationship between you and to building a sense of independence in your teen.  Stop and think about how shifting to practice some of these strategies might help unstick conflicts, and promote success.

–Jennifer Hartstein, PsyD                                                                                                                                                                                   License Clinical Psychologist