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Teaching the Closed Minded Child To Be More Open Minded

Help for parents on how to deal with closed-minded teenagers. Parenting advice on helping teenagers be more open-minded.

Any advice on how to get through to two closed-minded teenagers? My husband and I feel like our words can't get through.

The journey of raising children can sometimes feel like knocking one's head against the wall. As parents attempt to get a message through to their son or daughter, it seems like words are bouncing off without any imprint. Errors in judgment stir up problems and punishments without any sincere acceptance of responsibility and the need to learn from mistakes. Parents are left with the sense that the cycle of irresponsibility will keep repeating since the child is more concerned with when the punishment ends rather than opening their minds to understanding the sources of the problems.

If this scene sounds painfully familiar, consider the following coaching tips to pry open the closed perceptions of your child:

Keep in mind that children are very prone to snap decisions and assumptions in order to resolve ambiguity and indecision in their lives. When circumstances are not to their liking and opportunity for escape presents itself, these mental habits narrow their scope, making it difficult to see the "big picture." Rather than use foresight and hindsight to decide on a responsible course of action they may quickly act in a way that minimizes frustration and maximizes pleasure. This focus on what appears and feels best for the present can serve as a "operating system" for some kids, and parents are urged to make them aware of its presence in their lives.

Consider the pattern of problem decision making that characterizes your child. In lieu of lectures, introduce language that resonates with their experiences in order to make your words more meaningful. If your child "assumes the worst" or "inserts lies where truth would spare them punishment" or "forgets to consider requesting help" see if they can come up with past examples of how this occurred. Build a dialogue emphasizing how everyone has "blinders that make it hard to clearly see how we want to handle a situation." Explain how "auto assumptions" block out other ways to interpret circumstances, and how "lies tear down trust" making it difficult for parents to comfortably offer freedom and privileges.

Address what is perhaps their most their troubling blinder: closing their mind to self- reflection. Some children have great difficulty due to their personality limitations while others intentionally close themselves off to understanding themselves better. Whatever the reason, parents can be helpful in expanding their self-awareness by being patient, clear, and nonpunitive. Emphasize the value of self-understanding and how it gives all people "an inner advantage when life throws curve balls at us." Use examples from their life to demonstrate how past troubles can build a helpful "self-warning system" that can prevent the continuation of problem patterns.

APA Reference
Richfield, S. (2019, August 6). Teaching the Closed Minded Child To Be More Open Minded, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/articles/teaching-the-closed-minded-child-to-be-more-open-minded

Last Updated: August 6, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD