As a parent I’ve figured out that communicating with my children at various stages of development can be at times challenging to say the least. From the time they’re babies, our children are learning how to communicate. Whether it’s teaching your child to sign before they speak, so they can tell you they’re hungry, or teaching them to say their first words, or when to keep their mouths closed – communication is learned over time.
But there’s a very tricky stage in our children’s lives when it seems communication is nearly impossible. The dreaded teenage years! These teenage years bring lots of changes for the young people in our lives. They are in a constant state of change. They are changing rooms for classes. They’re changing groups of friends. They’re getting used to their almost but not quite adult skin. So how do we communicate with these children of ours who think they’re adults? How do we winsomely talk to our children who want to have the permission and freedom of adulthood but little of the responsibility? How do we offer correction in a way that’s not condescending yet effective?
Unfortunately there’s not a silver bullet approach here. There are many factors to the way we communicate with our teens. Boys need to be talked to differently than girls. Older teens will respond different than younger teens. Teens of one personality type will hear words in one way while a different personality type will hear them another way altogether. So if there’s no one approach what are we to do? Here are a few parenting hacks that I’ve stumbled across that have worked well for me. Feel free to add yours and help us parents of teens out!
- Would you look at me! These words have been spoken to my teenage boys more times than I can count. We grew up in the age when looking at someone meant you were paying attention and not looking meant…well that you weren’t! But that’s not exactly true with teenage boys today especially. We’ve found that forcing our boys to look at us while talking to them makes them feel like they’re in trouble or on the spot. I actually read in a book recently, and I’m sorry to the author I just don’t remember which book or who you are, that the best time to talk to your teenage son is while you’re driving! This does a couple things actually. For starters they can’t just run away and go to a different room until the conversation is over! But more importantly, you’re likely not looking them directly in the eyes nor are you expecting them to do the same to you. This sets the tone for a much more relaxed atmosphere and leads to potentially better conversation!
- Learn how they communicate. This is pretty big. Just because you are straight forward and to the point doesn’t mean that everyone is so be patient. I’ve been known to draw the distinction between painting and pointing. Painting is the story approach to communication. You talk about everything and give all the details. While pointers just get to the point. They tell you what they want to tell you and then drop it. So which are you – a painter or a pointer? And have you ever dealt with someone who was the opposite? It’ll drive you crazy! Consider this when having a conversation with your teen. They very well might be one while you’re the other!
- Don’t hear what I’m not saying. All too often as parents we have our answers formed in our heads before we start talking to our children. We know what they’re going to say before they say it, and when they don’t say what we’re expecting we get all bent out of shape. So when you’re teen talks or asks a question or even answers one that you’ve asked, pause for a second and erase the answers you want. Then listen. Really listen. Remember they’re teenagers! They’re still trying to figure out how to be a semi-adult. Give them a little rope, enough that they can make mistakes but be there to help them when they fall without making them feel stupid. Just listen!
So there you have it. Just a few ideas that I’ve been able to put into practice in my own parenting. You’ll notice that my list is probably more focused on parenting boys but that’s my life! Give me a few years and I’ll be changing things a lot I’m sure. Hope this is helpful. And please share your insights so we can all be better parents communicating through these challenging years.