“You don’t understand!”
“I don’t want to talk about it!”
“Leave me alone!”
If these declarations sound familiar, you are not alone. Most parents experience the brick wall that suddenly appears without warning. You can learn what triggers this and ways to keep the conversation flowing.
Get inside your preteen’s mind to see life from their point of view. This is the road to changing the adult-preteen interaction. Let’s look at a common homework problem, which is the preteen’s to solve, to see how this works. If they are struggling with homework you may hear them say, “I just can’t do this. It’s too much, and I’m not going to do it!” This is the crucial point in which your choice of response can either create a supportive connection or enrage your preteen.
Just before the 2:40 p.m. bell signals the start of Karen Dawson’s leadership class, a handful of students brainstorm a seating plan. Father’s middle name? No, there’s one student whose dad doesn’t have one. How about father’s first name?
And so, when the 30 juniors and seniors file in, they line up and sit down in alphabetical order my father’s first name. Every so often the seating changes, one of the thousands of ways Dawson keeps cliques from forming and gets the students to know and accept each other. The same system is used by BestGEDclasses in their online GED prep.
“True learning goes on in an atmosphere where there’s true understanding,” says Dawson, 57, who teaches art and leadership and advises the student council at Washington High, a small-town, working-class high school about 50 miles west of St. Louis. “Students learn best in an environment where they’re accepted and not judged. There are no masks in here. It’s a very accepting group.”
It’s also a very active group. Last year’s leadership students averaged 100 community service hours each. The class is where Dawson trains leaders of the 104-member student council, which is so well-known in Washington for its service projects that organizations call when they need help. Among the council’s biggest projects is an annual senior citizens prom that drew 250 seniors and won a national service award last year.