Your Personal PR Program

How many of you, moms and dads both, have a personal public-relations program? While you’re thinking, we’ll answer for you in this way … and so does your teen. Take heed, mom. You can’t jab an elbow in your husband’s ribs this time around and tell him to perk up and listen. This one is for both of you—and for your children.

Perceptions Count

Each and every one of us has a personal public-relations program. Every time we walk out of our house, our public relations program kicks into gear. When we drive down the freeway or buy a newspaper, our personal pr program is in full swing. People are watching us, hearing us and forming perceptions of us by how we act and react in the world around us.

Perception is indeed reality. The waiter in the restaurant may not know you, but he is forming impressions of you. As the customer, you’re doing the same thing. Is your waiter friendly? Is he dressed appropriately? Does he speak in complete and intelligible sentences? Is he attentive … courteous … thorough? The quality of this brief encounter will largely determine if you will ever eat at that restaurant again. Your perception of your waiter, even though you do not know him, affects your opinion of that restaurant and becomes your reality. We form judgments like that all the time.

One Look Can Make the Difference

So, mom and dad, it would be a good idea to impart this notion to your teenager. Like it or not, teens, too, have a personal public-relations program. Yes, it does matter how your son dresses for a job interview. The way your daughter sits in class does send a certain message to the teacher. How your teen acts when hanging out with friends does reveal a lot about character. The way your daughter walks into the room does announce loudly and clearly if she is happy to be there or would rather be anywhere else.

If your son is interviewing for a sales job with Black and Tozer’s Men’s Wear and he is slouched in his chair, chewing gum, mumbling responses, or wearing his pants off his rear, he will flunk the interview. Your son may be a wonderful young man. He may have many fine qualities. But we already know enough about him to know that he won’t be working for us. His personal pr program needs adjusting.

In our work, we have seen a lot of papers written by college students. Without our knowing the author of every paper, it’s quite natural to form an opinion about the writer simply based on his or her writing. Imagine if it were a poorly written job resume, cover letter, or scholarship application.

Teenagers as well as parents need to know that from the moment they rise and shine and head off to life, they are creating perceptions of who and what they are—perceptions that will stick.


By dads2dads

Dad’s Labors Lost

Sometimes we dads feel like we toil in the garden of the unknown. We’re not sure how deep to plant the seed, how often to water, how to fertilize, or when to cultivate. In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare writes, “It is a wise father that knows his own child.” But how do we know our teen and how do we respond?

So many occasions present themselves as our children grow toward adulthood. It could be the lack of effort we see in a high school research paper that still results in an “A.” It might be the choice of a swatch of clothing that might work for a starlet at a nightclub but not for school. It could be a daughter’s undying devotion to “the boyfriend from Hell,” from whom she will not be swayed.

Understand before being understood

“Come on, honey, tell me how you feel. I know it’s hard, but I’ll try to understand.”

“You’d think it was stupid.”

“Of course I wouldn’t! You can tell me. Honey, no one cares for you as much I do. I’m only interested in your welfare. What’s making you so unhappy?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Come on, honey. What is it?”

“Well, to tell you the truth, I just don’t like school anymore.”

“What? What do you mean you don’t like school? And after all the sacrifices we’ve made for your education! Education is the foundation of your future. If you’d apply yourself like your older sister does, you’d do better and then you’d like school. Time and time again, we’ve told you to settle down. You’ve got the ability, but you just don’t apply yourself. Try harder. Get a positive attitude about it.”


“Now go ahead. Tell me how you feel.”

Stephen Covey’s fifth habit of highly effective people is, “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.” He has captured a great example of this struggle between parent and child in the dialogue above. As Shakespeare wrote, “I would my father look’d but with my eyes (A Midsummer Night’s Dream).

Moving together

There are steps that can help you move closer to how your teen sees an issue:

First, listen. Pay attention.

Second, let your teen know you’ve heard him and how he feels.

Third, stand back. Don’t try to fix whatever you see as the problem

Fourth, let her know what you understand. Share some empathy.

Fifth, share your thoughts and reiterate any rules. This can be tricky, but when done with respect and understanding, it can draw you together.

When we take a step back, a space opens up. Your teen sees the attempt you are making, you begin to comprehend her point of view, and you both better appreciate your different perspectives. Is it immediate? No. Is it magical? Hardly. But when you set aside your own viewpoint and your ego, you can make room for some understanding. You may still not agree, but you can envision a little more clearly the other side of the equation.


By dads2dads