Stay the course in a test of wills with teens

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, July 23, 2011

QUESTION: We have teenagers who are really into power struggles. They can make some really poor decisions because they are stubborn, and sometimes defiant. Do you have any illustration that will help parents keep their sense of humor during the regular “test of wills?”

ANSWER: In his book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” author Stephen Covey quotes the following story from the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute, which illustrates the importance of picking our battles wisely.

“Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.

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Shortly after dark, the lookout on my wing reported, ‘Light, bearing on the starboard bow.’

‘Is it steady or moving astern?’ the captain called out.

The lookout replied, ‘Steady, captain,’ which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.

The captain then called to the signalman, ‘Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees.’

Back came the signal: ‘Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.’

The captain said, ‘Send: I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.’

‘I’m a seaman second-class,’ came the reply. ‘You had better change course 20 degrees.’

By that time, the captain was furious. He spat out, ‘Send: I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.’

Back came the flashing light: ‘I’m a lighthouse.’

We changed course.”

So, parents, remind your teens that they may be smart and big, but you’ve got more experience. Stay calm and stand your ground.

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