A favorite conversation topic for adults interacting with kids is their future plans. We love asking them about their thoughts regarding their upcoming spring and summer breaks. We love to ask kids about their plans post-high school and for their careers.
The problem is, that kids rarely like to be on the other end of our inquiries. Rarely does the conversation go well.
When engaging in conversations with kids about their future, it’s tempting to sit on one side of the fence or the other.
On one side, you simply listen to their ideas and ambitions. You say very little, except to confirm that you’re listening. Usually, a kid’s ideas are half-baked, and even though they aren’t outright asking for it, they need help to find the best path forward.
On the other side, you’re highly directive. You add context and filters to the questions you ask. You lead the conversation where you want to take it, and inherently you add expectations through your tone of voice and leading questions. Kids are all too familiar with a lecture waiting around the corner.
On one side, you’re following along in the conversation. On the other side, you’re directing them. Neither are very productive.
Motivational Interviewing is a formal process that sits in as a nice compromise between both of those styles. It’s a collaborative listening process that requires a more nuanced approach to conversations. It’s not overly complicated, and it’s a skill set anyone can pick up with intentional practice.
If you do it right, kids will feel understood, safe, and supported. They will uncover their own ambitions and ideas, making them stickier and ultimately more motivating.
In the next series of articles (links provided below), we’ll explore Motivational Interviewing as a learnable framework, essential for any adult who wants to support a kid to thrive and find their own path in life.
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