"I'm thinking about getting dreads," my college freshman son declared to me as we were leaving his university for spring break at home.
He was currently sporting what I called the 'Jesus look' - shoulder-length wavy hair.
I took a moment to react silently in my head: "What? Are you crazy!?"
But then I calmly responded, "Oh, where are you going to get those?"
"From Victor." (Ironically, Victor was a missionary kid and my husband knew his dad from their days at the same university.)
"So, what, you just get some at the Wal-Mart?" was my attempt to be funny.
"No," he explained, "it is a very time consuming process."
He went on to explain the process to me and ended up saying, "I probably won't do it, though, because it takes so long and neither of us really have time for that."
"Probably won't do it." That is what I have discovered often happens when a teenager drops a thought like that on a parent. It usually doesn't come to pass.
(However, some ideas he presented - taking a solo train trip to Chicago at age 17, biking coast to coast, hitchhiking - did happen.)
If you react, it becomes a huge argument or source of worry. If you talk it through with your teen, it usually is just something they are thinking about.
It took me a long time to come to this realization. I have had numerous needless arguments with and worries about my teenagers. I can have reactions that border on being 'nuclear' – damaging many things.
Responding is a skill that can be used with children (and adults) of all ages. I have by no stretch of the imagination mastered this skill, but if I think before I speak, life goes better.
What are your techniques for responding rather than reacting?