Teach teens to distract

March 24, 2011|Lisa Prejean

When was the last time you taught your child how to be a distraction?
What’s that you say? Most kids don’t need to be taught how to distract. It’s a skill that comes naturally.
Well, yes and no.
Some kids seem to make it their aim to distract an adult from the task at hand. They love being able to ask a question, take an adult down a rabbit trail, and thus distract from the moment ... a moment of discipline, a moment of learning, a moment of confrontation.
By the time they reach the teenage years, most kids are pretty savvy at this.
Adults who take the bait wonder how the conversation strayed so far from the original topic.
Distraction is a powerful tool, but it doesn’t have to be viewed with disdain.
Why not teach young people how to use distraction in a positive way?
How does that work? I’m glad you asked.
Distraction takes a person from one focal point to another. If the first focal point was negative and the second focal point is positive, a person’s perception can be changed completely.
Earlier this week I was in an office where the prevailing mood was one of frustration.
A phone call had not gone well. The employee got off the phone and proceeded to tell another employee how condescending the phone caller had been.
Then the phone rang again. This phone call took longer than expected, so a reinforcement had to be called over to wait on the customers.
I felt for these employees and wanted to help. I wanted them to let go of the negative feelings that were brewing in their office.
So I asked pleasant questions, made small talk and gave some compliments on what they were doing correctly.
What a turnaround! They seemed calmer and had a clearer focus on their work.
Effective leaders use distraction on a regular basis to accomplish their goals.
If a CEO stops by a dragging production line just to touch base and see how the workers are doing, that visit can have a powerful impact.
The book of Proverbs tells us that “pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”
It is important to teach our kids how to distract in a positive way, not just because they want to have power. Although, if they develop this skill, they probably will find themselves in leadership positions.
Distracting others from the unpleasant aspects of life is a human quality we should all possess.
We should sincerely care about and attempt to lighten the loads of others with an encouraging word.
That’s one rabbit trail that is worth following.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail’s Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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