How to Talk With Your Teens & Not At Them
Ever notice how we seem to talk at our teens, instead of with them? I know I’m guilty of it, and I’ve definitely seen this happen with other families too: a parent talking to their teen as they just stand there with their arms crossed and a blank stare on their face. You can tell those kids aren’t listening; they are tolerating.
Parents, that’s not a conversation… and I know that’s it’s probably not the communication you strive for. My desire, like yours, is for something much deeper. I want a relationship, a conversation that freely flows both ways. And I’m not referring to the yelling kind.
If we long for this kind of relationship then why do we do this to our teens?
I understand how frustrating this stage of parenting can be. But, if you really want to cultivate a conversation then you might consider changing your approach.
That’s where we, as parents, get to make our daily interactions different. Here are three practical ways that we actually used with all five of our teens.
- Understand your teens want to be respected. I know, I can hear it now…”well they aren’t being respectful to me.” I get that. Mine weren’t always either. But I have found if I am slow to speak and really think about my words, what comes out of my mouth will be softer than my initial reaction. Try putting yourself in their place. How would you respond if you were being talked to like that? Would you really be receptive? I think not! You’d probably have the same reaction. Like Mary Poppins says, “Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down…” Want more respect? Then make your words good like sugar.
- Understand your teens aren’t kids, they are young adults. They are trying to handle all that comes their way. Often they just need a little more patience and guidance, and a lot of prayer! One of the best ways for me to find out what my kids were going through was late at night when the house was quiet. There is something about the still of the night that fosters transparency. This meant I had to be willing to stay up past my own bedtime to ask about their day. Now it may take a while before they open up, but be patient, if they know you are genuinely there for them they will slowly begin to share and invite you into their world.
- Understand teens can be easily influenced. If you doubt this take a good look at the advertising geared toward teenagers. It’s relentless! Why do you think marketers do this? Because it works! Many times we get upset when our teens do things they know they should not do. There were times I could not believe what mine did. I knew they were taught better. But the truth is teens aren’t really different than any of us, they just do not have the maturity to recognize it. That is why your time spent with them is so important. You are like a strong oak tree during a wind storm. You provide a safe place to hold onto until they can manage on their own. Your understanding is essential to their overall confidence and strength.
When you start to consider these three insights you will be on your way to having a closer relationship with your teens by talking with them not at them.
For more posts about Teens you can read here.