I start every day on Periscope with a scope on spirituality however it often becomes live coaching and parenting was the coaching topic that arose a few days ago, specifically introverted teens. I can’t think of any better analogy for parenting introverted teens than working with feral/community cats! I always recommend the book Quiet by Susan Cain as the go to book for learning about your introverted friends and family so please read that with great attention. Use a highlighter even! Adolescents in general are feral cat-like and add introversion to that and you can get a strange mix of loving, sensitive, creative alternating with stubborn, sullen and totally silent and it’s near impossible to figure out what caused the switch.
Feral cats are often actually cats that have been abandoned and have lived wild so long they look like they were born that way. In working with them you start to see who can be rehabilitated so to speak and who is as wild as a raccoon and will never let you get close. I’ve had success with older kittens born feral but not past six months old. Generally community cats that began life with some human contact can be re-habbed enough to make good pets.
Teens also in the deep recesses of their brain remember human contact. It’s only temporarily rejected and only when coming from parents and caregivers. Anyone in their peer group might be allowed access however it’s important to note that also similar to cats, introverts don’t appreciate random acts of touching from anyone really!
The process of taming is long and arduous and not for the weak! Here are a few instructions you can try out:
- Never make eye contact. NEVER!
- Never speak directly, act as if you’re talking to yourself. You know just chatting about the weather, sports, safe sex, sports, pizza, World of Warcraft, never driving drunk, Guitar Center, etc. For cats just mumble any old thing so they get used to the sound of your voice. Cats listen better and neither cat nor kid really cares what your words mean anyway.
- Never approach directly. Sidle up to a teen or feral cat, stay at an angle and go slow. If they look toward you while you’re in motion freeze and pretend to examine they wall or the sky for nothing in particular.
- Eventually sit next to them as close as you can and stare at something together or take a long walk that leads to pizza. (a can of tuna is a good lure for cats).
- Pretend like you literally could not give a single rat’s ass about what they think reagrding any subject or what their plans in life are at this point in time 5 seconds before college starts. The answers to those are 1. A LOT and 2. they have no idea.
- Do whatever you can to keep your energy small and contained. Whatever you do, do not reach toward them in your thoughts! They know the second you are alert to them and they take off like a shot into their room or the woods depending on which being you’re trying to tame. It can take weeks to re-establish trust!
- They are uncanny in their ability to know if you have an agenda and they will avoid you like a large group activity. All large group activities are to be avoided at all cost and if forced to attend will require a 3 day recovery period in which no one is allowed to speak to them with their mouth. In other words text, don’t talk.
- Leave food at the entrance to their sleepy places and peek around the wall to watch them dart out, grab it and disappear. Empty dishes let you know eating has occurred, there will often be a large scattering of crumbs and perhaps dirty things piled over the plate. Cats use grass to cover the empty plate, kids use dirty socks. No one knows why and don’t try to figure it out. Go find a cure for cancer, that’s much easier and more helpful anyway.
Keep your distance but make yourself available several times a day and let them come to you. It may take a while but in time, they always do.
Are you a cat guardian and if so were you an introverted teen?
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