Talking With Your Teenager…Not At Them

“And these words… shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest… when thou walkest… when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deut. 6:6,7

Are you talking with your son or daughter – really talking?

Schedules are so hectic that families are like “ships passing in the night”. Even when families take trips together they are usually all listening to a stereo system, or on their cell phones, as they hurl parallel to each other down the road.

We are not talking enough to our children about our faith -or about anything else. I have heard that fathers only talk to their sons less than five minutes a day. This is not near enough to build a bridge or understanding. Dads must open up the lines of communication when there is no conflict in order to influence their teen when there are problems.

We are not talking enough with them when they are still children – when they want to talk. Suddenly they are now teenagers and we are surprised and hurt when they shut us out and do not wish to talk. The time to open up communication and talk with our children about life and the changes they are facing in their life is before puberty.

I have known many parents who were willing to get involved with their children in the Elementary School – but will not darken the halls of the Middle School or the High School. We, as parents, are backing away at the very time teens need us the most. Their habits and attitudes repel us, so many conversations we do have with them become very confrontational and judgmental.

It is up to us, as Christian parents, to bridge the gap. We must first set communication as a priority, slow down and pray that they will react positively as we reach out to them.

Here are a few ideas:

1. When they make a ‘mess’ – don’t ask ‘Why?’. Just hand them a rag so they can clean it up!

If we are honest, most of our conversations with them go something like this: “Why did you…?”, “Why can’t you…?”, “How come you didn’t …?”.

These are not questions. They are ‘put downs’ and criticisms. Remember there is always positive intents behind most parental ‘put downs’.

They need encouragement not criticism. Stop all sarcasm and ‘put downs’ anywhere in your home. Home should be a sanctuary and a “Criticism Free Zone”.

2. When there is a Problem, Focus on the Behavior not on the Person.

With a firm voice you can say, “It makes me feel angry when I find your coat in the Living Room. I would like you to hang it up when you come home. Next time I find it in the Living room I will put it away for two weeks, and you will have to find other ways of staying warm.”

When you find it there; put it away without falling for the desire to lecture — do not argue or defend your action — do not give it back for the two weeks. Surprise! They will not freeze. Or… “When I find your clothes on the floor – I will not wash them. I wash only what is in the hamper.”

Celebrate each step in the direction of improvement rather than focusing on the mistakes.

3. Make sure your ‘Body Language’ is also nonjudgmental and is saying the same thing as your voice.

4. Talk with and to them – not at them.

Take time to talk not just about ‘what’ they did but rather about how they ‘feel’ about what they did.

5. When they share something shocking; do not act shocked.

Thank them for sharing and offer to help.

6. Make special time for them.

Make a date with son or daughter for hamburgers. Drive them to school at least once a week. Drive to church together. Make sure the radio is off, and keep the conversation going – hoping your teen will open up. Ask, “What are you looking forward to today?”, “What is your biggest problem today?”

7. Ask their opinion – Let them know you trust them.

If you are willing to listen to their small talk, they will be more willing to share serious thoughts.

8. Give them your time – rather than your things – You will never be sorry!

9. Tell them you love them – really love them and are proud of them.

10. Talk to them when they sit down, and when they stand up.

Talk with them when they are walking and riding with you – and before they go to bed.

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