10/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Just Listen - Get Your Kid Off to the Best Start in School

Talking with your kid about a future they haven't messed up (yet) is worth hours of blaming, excuse making and endless arguing over something they have.

Whenever your pre-teen or teenage kid has screwed up, teaching them a lesson after the fact isn't exactly the easiest task.

One of the best ways to avoid that is to use the "side by side" technique I've described in my about-to-be published book, Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (AMACOM, Sept. 15, 2009).

Do this while driving in the car (where you're both looking forward instead of engaged in one of those face to face lectures that they can't stand) or engaged in some activity or errand to "buffer" the conversation.

If it's a pre-teen/middle schooler and they'll still engage with you, say: "How can you tell which one of your friends is most likely to go too far and get in big trouble?"

They may smell a rat and say: "What?"

If so, continue with: "Yeah, I was just wondering which of your friends is likely to go too far this year, because if they do and you're their friend, you might get pulled in to help them out. It might be helpful to know which one and what they might do, so you can be ready. I mean isn't that what friends are for?"

You don't start to lecture them or tell them to avoid that friend. Doing it this way is a way of helping them develop judgment about "going too far" and that doing so has consequences.

If they tolerate that question, ask them next: "While we're on the topic of what's coming up, how do you tell the difference between a class you need to stay up to date on and one you can kind of get away with doing stuff at the last minute?" This again helps sow the seeds for their developing the capacity for anticipation and for judgment.

You can use a similar approach with a wide variety of questions.

What if you're dealing with a headstrong, "Just leave me alone" high schooler or even college age kid? Read how to deal with them at: Basil and Spice: Talk with your kid about the future.

P.S. If you like these kind of tips, I think you will like "Just Listen" and hope you'll check it out and spread the word to your friends.
P.P.S. If you missed my FREE American Management Association webcast, "The Simple Secret to Getting Through to Difficult People" that had 1700+ attendees, you can catch it at: AMA webcast.