Monday, December 28, 2020

Want to instantly disarm arguments?

 In teaching sales skills a few years ago, I did an entire sales presentation ASKING ONLY QUESTIONS! I never made a single declarative statement.   And it worked! The class understood and valued what I had done. 

[old expression: “sellin’ ain’t tellin’, askin’ is”]

In ‘negotiating’ or communicating with teenagers - you could do much the same thing!

This may take a little thoughtful preparation on your part, but the results will be worth it - fewer arguments, improved relationships, happier family life, greater mutual respect!

 We are all predictable [ask your spouse or partner!] – so you can readily predict what your teen will say to almost anything [assuming you listen well].

Imagine an entire conversation with your teenager in which you ONLY ask questions! Nothing snide, nothing sarcastic, nothing condescending, no sermonizing.  Just lead the conversation through and with questions. [like the Socratic method – see below]

Remember always that if you don't participate in an argument there is no argument. By asking questions, you take the lead, you don’t argue and you’re always guiding the conversation.  I can instantly hear many readers objecting and disagreeing and saying this won't work.  Yes it will!!  It may take a little prior thinking on your part – especially if you already argue with them often.  But THINK – if you don’t argue – and they expect you to, they’ll be dumbfounded when you don’t!  Give it a try and see how far you get! And please report back as to how you did. I am always open to new and advancing learning.

 Let’s start a list of good, worthwhile questions. I’ll start:

·        “that’s an interesting point – please tell me more”

·        OR – “I don’t follow your thinking – please tell me how you got there”

·        “Now THAT’S enlightening!”

·        “just curious – what evidence or past experience makes you believe that?”

·         _________________________________________

·         _________________________________________

·         _________________________________________


Socratic method is a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions


Thursday, December 10, 2020



Very often, we tell our kids to “do your best!” But what happens if they don't know how to do that? My mother's classic comment was “if you’d just apply yourself.”  I never knew what that meant. And that's where parenting launches into high gear!

One of my favorite courses in grad school was “Concept acquisition” – that is, the study of how anyone acquires the concept of “two” or “girl” or “apple.”  The major realization was and is – each of us sees or perceives “distinctive features” that someone else may not even notice, but clearly, for the learner, identifies a TWO – and is not a GIRL, not an APPLE. 

Let’s take that further:  in studying “in the zone” we find that, over time, everything becomes boring. But what re-ignites interest and directed motivation is “finer and finer levels of detail”, such as, in bowling, getting the 7-10 split once every fifty times, not once every hundred.  Golf is a better metaphor.  When my friend and I took up golf, we knew we were getting better when our tee shot was only one fairway off, not two or three.  These exact same concepts are how you help your teen “do their best.”  

As in bowling or golf, we needed a lesson in very specific actions or grip or release or stance or approach.  I once took an at-home study course in which the entire first module was about what to eat before starting, how to sit, where to sit, etc., etc.  You may need to guide your teen in some of these prelim steps as well.

I am a huge believer in the effectiveness of micro-goals –the essence of all success and a close cousin, no, brother, to ‘finer level of detail.’  Encourage your teen to work in short bursts, much like Salman Khan of the Khan Academy recommends for at-home, virtual learning. 

And DON’T FORGET – compliment the heck out of them each and every positive, even small step forward, as they get closer and closer to “doing their best.”

REMINDER: we are all our own worst critics, as is your teen OF THEMSELVES.  Say nothing negative unless they ask – and be very gentle and instructive, not negative and destructive. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020


 Your human teenager’s human performance in any field is defined and limited by their self-esteem or self-image - what they believe they’re capable of – or NOT capable of.

 That self-image is a MINDSET.  Mindset defines performance – but also determines if and how they will grow – or fail to grow – to plateau, to remain exactly where your teen is now and always!! J L 

 Mindset is an attitude - a habit of thought. How do we build an attitude?  Same way we build or install any habit – REPETITION and REINFORCEMENT.  But be careful!  If that repetition is not progressing toward the final product we want, we are creating mediocrity!!

 And that’s where Carol Dweck’s GROWTH mindset enlightens us. The GROWTH mindset is the belief that we are capable of learning or performing better.  This mindset is crucially important – because many of us, unconsciously or unintentionally fall into that CLOSED mindset of “that’s all s/he is capable of – they can’t do any better.”   We do it to ourselves, we do it to others and worst - we sometimes do it to our teens.

 This is a common human problem: - we are our own worst critic. We also criticize our teenagers – when they need positivity THE MOST! If your teenager is criticizing themselves, saying they’re no good or dumb or just can’t get it - it's up to you to help them to seek out and find and LEARN FROM – where they fell short or failed – and get them back in the IMPROVING- not quitting -game!!!!!

These are the crucial points:

(o) find what/ where they fell short,

(o) compliment the good they did and

(o) help, enable, encourage them to try again – the sooner the better!!

 Strengthen or re-strengthen or reinforce their good.  And to use the lessons of Carol Dweck and mindset – ASKING “what did you learn from that mistake or setback?”  DO NOT LECTURE.  They will often be negative about themselves – which is where YOU come in – GUIDE THEM in searching, finding the lesson it taught!!!

 The core element in building an open mindset is constant positivity: always maintaining a positive attitude, regardless of the depths of any setbacks. The core elements of that open mindset are the belief and the perception that it's all there for Learning and growth and advancement and strength. We all tend to see setbacks that we caused as our weaknesses. Everyone has them and does them.

The key issue is to listen, accept, validate and then ask your teenager what they learned from this setback. And you might remind them that the greatest learnings occur from mistakes failures and setbacks - not from what you did right! That's the gold medal. Value, treasure and use every negative instance that your teen experiences – TRULY VALUE IT because that's the only thing that builds untapped potential.

If you have questions or comments, contact us at




Friday, October 23, 2020


 If you consider the best of the best in any profession – sports, sales, trial lawyer, great public speaker or even singer/entertainer, they've already “done this before many times!”, ‘before the big game’ or the big presentation or the big stage. It’s exactly like they did it in practice.  That's the secret of effective performance!

So why throw your teenager into the game or world of life – without practicing?

You KNOW they will be faced with many large and small decisions and choices –and talking them through with their trusted advisor – YOU – can only help their decision-making!



STUDYING [or avoiding]


If you lay out or describe an actual, probable situation with them – and either ASK them how they’d handle it, what they’d say – or suggest what they might say – you have the basis for discussion.  They may disagree [probably?] – but you will have introduced your point.

And be as specific and detailed as possible.  Adults have a tendency to speak to young people in generalities and assume their teen will directly apply it to a situation. 

Don’t allow them to say “I’d say something like _____”  Make them tell you the exact words they would say.  THEN you have the basis for practice and refinement. Mastery in any endeavor comes from practice!!

Remember – the simplest way out of a conversation is for your teen to say “yes, I understand” = when in fact they either don’t understand or don’t care.  STAY THE COURSE.  Don’t be militaristic – don’t get loud or emotional –and in many cases, you may choose to come back to this issue at a later date.  Remember - almost all learning requires repetition!!!  

Oh, and of course – one of your best tools in connecting with teenagers – HUMOR!  Make them laugh, even at your expense.

And - if you have questions or comments or an issue you’d like to discuss, email us at