• Dale V Wayman, PhD

Zip It, Clip it, or Go Brain Dead

"Zip it, clip it, or go brain dead" is something that I frequently tell myself when counseling teenagers. Let me explain:


1 - Zip it. Teenagers don't think it's kewl when an adult tried to be kewl with a teenager. They actually make fun of adults who try to do this. In efforts to be kewl (see how uncool I'm being by saying "kewl"?), adults do too much and say too much. Actually, as a counselor it's better many times to say nothing and just demonstrate your best listening skills.

2 - Clip it. Again, adults say too much. They lose, if they had any, credibility with the teenager by droning on, especially if the adult slips into lecture mode. Hence, a counselor doesn't need to explain much. Just keep your part of the conversation short. Give the teenager space to talk.


3 - Go brain dead. This is where you show your ignorance regarding what the teenager is talking about. Rather that trying to bluff about what the teen is saying, you ask questions" "I don't know what you are referring to...what do you mean when you say 'aggro'?" "What do you mean when he say, he 'cheesed' his way to victory?" Being brain dead keeps you from being fake with a teenager. They can spot fake adults. Counselors don't need to be fake with their clients. Teenagers see through adults who try to be "kewl."


As Adlerians, we know that a motivator of teenagers is to make the adult in charge look inept and stupid. Therefore, it is important to not be sucked into this game. Power struggles rarely work in interactions with teenagers. Teenagers will challenge and  if you respond in an authoritarian manner, the relationship is on rocky ground.  

So, try it...as a parent, as a counselor, as someone who is wanting to build a relationship with a teenager: "Zip it, clip it, or go brain dead"


Suggested reading: Sweeney, T.J. (2009). Adlerian Counseling and Psychotherapy: A Practitioner's Approach, Fifth Edition. Routledge, 978-0415993487

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