Get Smart School Success #3: The Power of Thou

Get Smart Success Camp for Parents #3:

The Power of Thou

This week is the first week of school for most middle school and high school students in my town. There is a rush to get supplies (are the lists getting longer, or is it me?) and every necessity for clothing, snacks, and who knows what else!

But I’m wondering if you found time yet to prepare you, your family and your teen for a successful year? In Get Smart Success Camp, I’ve been offering strategies and conversations to use with your teen and college student prior to the first day of school.  It’ funny how we often spend so much time with basic needs that include food, materials and clothing, but sometimes forget that taking time to intentionally talk about goals, habits and feelings for the coming year is just as important.  This week’s Get Smart focuses on two powerful words:


Trust me…this is one of the most important ways to change your thinking and focus with your teen (actually with anyone you love and care about!).  Martin Buber (INCLUDE SOME BASIC BACKGROUND INFO AND A LINK) described two types of relationships:


This is the relationship that sees the other person as an “it”, a problem to be solved, a mouth to feed, a problem to fix, a child to discipline, a kid who isn’t completing her/his homework.  We all do it. Doctors can only see “diagnoses” and “patients”, rather than people who are afraid, who have a story, who need a connection.  Educators can reduce the kids in front of them to labels, homework missing, discipline issues.  Get the picture?  We can all reduce the person in front of us into an “it”; losing the connection and attachment that we all need to feel seen, safe, secure.

STOP FOR A MOMENT:  Ever feel like an “it” in a relationship?  You know when it happens.  There is no mind for intimacy or attachment; you’re simply a label, a way  to fulfill a need, an item on a list to accomplish. Think about a person or relationship where that is true for you.  What are you feeling?  Where do you feeling your “it-ness” in your body?  It’s powerful and painful to recognize this type of relationship when the other person matters.


Buber goes on to explain the “I/Thou” relationship.  Here each person connects and attaches in deep, intimate ways.  You feel seen, heard, safe and loved no matter what. You’re loved for being who you are. This isn’t to say that I/Thou is about letting things happen that are painful or nonproductive.  Actually, when we are in these relationships that feature security, attachment and connection, we feel safe and oftentimes inspired to do great things.


Toni Morrison once said that everyone should have at least one person in their life that lights up and is thrilled to see them when they walk into a room. Think about someone in your life who loves you for who you are.  They are the person who is safe, secure and makes you feel seen and heard.  You connect with them in deep and enduring ways. Notice what you’re feeling when you think about them.  Where do you feel those emotions in your body?  That is what being “Thou” feels like!


One of the constant statements in my office comes from clients who say, “They never ask how I am…what I’m feeling…what my day was like…what’s going on.  No. They want to know if I did my homework or if my room is clean or if dinner is on the table.”  What do they need?  To be a THOU. To be seen,  To have eyes light up (no matter how cranky and silent they walk into the house)when they walk into the room.

Parents…we have a lot of “IT” kids walking around schools and families and jobs and youth groups. They feel invisible; and when it’s with people they yearn to love the most, it’s almost indescribable emotional pain. And when we feel disconnected, invisible and unheard within our families, we look to other people and other ways to get validation and feel like a “thou” (which is usually a cheap substitute).


I’m so glad you asked! Here are a few suggestions (many from teens and young adults I talk to every day).  You’ll notice that nothing here is big…and yet the very act of seeing your teen, your young adult, your family or your partner as a THOU begins to make a difference!

  • NEVER ever ever text an argument with your teen (or anyone in your life!). it’s unproductive.  There are things you can never take back.  There’s no connection and resolution through text.  You text an IT.  You take time to talk, face to face and eye to eye with a THOU.


  • As busy as you are…and as cranky as your teen might be…take 10 minutes every day (BEFORE the homework and chores talk) to ask:
    • How are you?REALLY how are you?
    • What was a high point and low point of your day?
    • How can I support you tonight?

And the BEST part is…you don’t have to fix anything!  Because we fix “IT” and we listen, empathize and wait for the ask for help with a “THOU”.  All you have to do is maintain eye contact, and listen.  And then maybe validate (that just means confirming what you heard and asking if you got it right).  Yes. It’s that simple.  And it’s that hard to believe that 10 minutes of listening and seeing your teen is more important than homework, attendance calls and dinner.

And if your life is structured in a way that can’t allow for a pre-dinner, pre-homework talk…build in 10 minutes before bed to check in, listen and validate. Let your teen (and everyone else) fall asleep feeling the power of “THOU”

  • 5:1From Boot Camp #2, I shared the power of 5:1.(Want to read about it?  Here’s the link  By stating five admirations, appreciations and adorations, you’re nourishing the THOU in your teen!


  • Eye to eye, skin to skin. Attachment is one of the key ingredients for a THOU relationship.  Mirror neurons between two people who are attuned actually resemble each other!  Think about a baby in a parent’s arms.  Eye to eye and skin to skin.  This posture links neurons and emotional health in powerful ways.  Many teens start to avoid eye to eye and skin to skin, but you can still make it happen without chasing them around the house demanding attunement time.
    • The car is a great place to connect. The rearview mirror can sometimes be a parent’s best friend to connect.
    • Take a hike or ride bikes or…something that involves uninterrupted time. You may talk…or not.


Life in the school year gets packed with activities, homework, projects, and all the realities of attendance, sleeping, early mornings and structure.  This year, you have an opportunity to change your teen’s life by committing to I/Thou. You have an opportunity to change your life by remembering the Power of Thou, and then taking specific steps to creating safe, secure and connected relationships.


Feeling like it might be too late to connect with your teen, your young adult or even your partner?  It really isn’t, and enCOURAGE Counseling is a safe place for deep healing.  Together we can develop ways to connect and heal with those around you.  I offer individually designed therapy for teens, young adults and parents.  Call 720-230-3076 today for a free 15-minute consultation. I’d love to learn about your story and goals as well as answer your questions about how to make therapy a safe, productive place for you or your teen.

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