Pressing the "Hot Buttons" By Nicole O'Dell
What are Hot Buttons?
Well, in the broader sense, the phrase Hot Buttons means a lot of different things, anything really, that can get a rise out people. Something that charges them up and receives an intense reaction. For the purposes of Choose NOW Ministries, I've defined hot buttons as those tough issues that teenagers face--the things parents are often more afraid of and most hesitant to talk about.
Some examples include:
- Internet Activity
- Faith Matters
- and more
Why not just leave it alone and let the kids figure it out? We can pray for them and trust it all to work out in the end. In some ways it does work itself out, true. Circumstances happen, pressure hits, relationships change. . .and your teens gets to figure it all out. In the heat of the moment. On their own. Hopefully they'll make the right choice, but it's really hard to know what will happen when the prep work isn't done.
Take an issue like dating--we talk about the boundaries. We set rules for curfew and other things. We even make sure we apprrove of the date and talk about saying no to sexual advances. Right?
And that's great. It really is. But there's something missing. Our teens need to know what to do and what not to do, and what we expect of them, but they also need to understand why that's going to be difficult for them. How does the body respond in ways that make it tough to say no? What will the feelings be like that make it difficult to leave the room or douse the proverbial flames?
You see, if we don't hit those truths head on before they become an issue, our teens will think it's a secret, it's specific to them, and we really don't know what we're asking them to say no to. But, if we press those hot buttons in advance, if we have the difficult conversations, then our teens will enter those pressure-filled situations armed with understanding and equipped with the words to say to stay true to their commitments.
With every hot button issue, someone is feeding your tweens and teens information--do you really want that someone to be anyone other than you?
How do I press the Hot Buttons?
Now that you've made the decision to be proactive about helping your tweens and teens battle peer pressure, I love to share the principles behind the Hot Buttons book series and the method of communicating with your teens it prescribes.
Each book is topical based on a single Hot Button issues and it's surrounding sub-topics. For example, the Hot Buttons Internet Edition deals with social networking, pornography, predators, cyber bullying, and more. The goal isn't to convince parents to keep their kids off the net, but rather to arm them with the tools they need to navigate it in a safe and healthy way.
Same with the Dating Edition. It covers early relationships, physical boundaries, date rape, and more. Instead of just handing down rules, parents need to walk their teens through the details and equip them with the understanding of what's out and how to rise above the peer pressure.
How does Hot Buttons work?
Each book is designed the same way. The first few chapters discuss the hows and why's of tackling hot buttons early and effectively. Part two dives into the topics with statistics and information that every parent should know. Next are the application portions of the book. This is when you put into practice the principles we discuss early on. Strategic Scenarios (up to 15 per book) allow you to walk your teens through a fictional situation and then offer options, choices, as to how they think they'd respond.
Here's an example of the way a Strategic Scenario works:
The Hot Buttons column gives you a fictional scenario you can use to put your teen in the heat of moment and help him/her figure out what to do when that real life situation happens. You should take this as an opportunity to see where your teenager may need some help or might face a struggle one day.
Now, tell your teen this story as though it’s really happening to him/her:
You’ve had a really hard week. Your best friend moved away, you didn’t make the team, you failed a test, and today you come home to find out your parents are going to be working late. Frozen pizza in the oven, you log on to your computer and visit your favorite chat room hangout. None of your friends are there, but a cute kid who claims he's from a rival school says hello.
What do you do?
Present the following choices to your teenager:
- He seems nice, and it’s a good way to pass the time until your food is done. You respond with a . After all, what could it hurt. He’s bored just like you. You won't give out any personal info.
- You say hi, but make up an excuse that you have to leave and then get out of the chat room. You’ll ask around about find out more about him tomorrow.
- You say nothing and leave the internet. No way you’re talking to a stranger online!
- Why not? People are too uptight about this sort of thing. He’s just a teenager, same as you. You say hello back and hope he continues the chat. Maybe he'll be your next boyfriend.
Now let your teen make a choice between the responses without feeling judged or directed. You want the response to be as honest as possible.
Here are some discussion points you can use to lead the conversation after the choice is made:
- Internet safety with information and photos.
- You never actually know who’s on the other end. It could be anyone.
- Statistically it's a fifty-fifty chance a stranger on the internet is a predator.
- There are more slaves globally than ever in history. Only now they are kidnapped and trafficked as sex slaves and MANY start as as conversations just as described above.
- Discuss the family rules and set new ones if necessary.
- Talk about different safeguards that are in place and ask for suggestions for new ones.
- Make a better plan for times of boredom and insecurity.
- Pray together for wisdom and safety.
If you're a parent of teens, or you know one, I hope you'll visit http://www.hotbuttonsite.com/ to read more Hot Buttons posts each week. Also, the first two Hot Buttons books: Dating and Internet, release on 6/1. Following soon after on 10/1 are the Sexuality and Drug editions.
Nicole O'Dell, founder of Choose NOW Ministries and host of Choose NOW Radio: Parent Talk and Teen Talk, is a youth culture expert who writes and speaks to preteens, teenagers, and parents on preparing for life's tough choices. The mother of six, including toddler triplets, she’s author of YA fiction, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the Diamond Estates Series, and non-fiction for teens including Girl Talk, 2/1/12, based on the popular advice column she writes with her two daughters. Hot Buttons, O’Dell’s non-fiction series for parents pre-empts peer pressure by tackling tough issues. Visit www.nicoleodell.com.