When did you last schedule time to hear your teen instead of only complaining about behavior?
It is easy to say I “need to connect” but, honestly, it is hard to find time. Between juggling our life? Mama is D.O.N.E.
We live where the catch phrase, Intentional Living, is thrown around like some kind of parenting club to beat us.
I hear you, sister. I feel for you, brother. But, put aside the automatic shut-down that comes with this kind of information and breathe with me as we think of ways we can make face-time happen.
Connecting, to me, is long chats over steaming lattes while hashing out the problems of our worlds. This happens with people I am comfortable sitting with for a couple hours. These are the ones with whom I have developed relationship. They are safe.
Who are these people?
They listen…. They don’t one up every story with a better version of their own and offer advice I can take or ignore. They walk with me. Not over me. Not under me. Beside me.
Why would our teens be any different? They are people too struggling for words and concepts they’ve not examined previously. They have a little comprehension to offer and they do it with blacks and whites edged in insecurity and the gray haze of your approval.
So, what if you can’t have a conversation with him without an argument starting?
Well, let’s be frank, darlin’, ok? You are the grown up. Act like one. It takes two to argue and you don’t have to prove a thing to that little upstart. You are (supposed to be) wiser and more thoughtful. You have full use of your pre-frontal cortex. Use. It.
Why are you threatened by their dissent? What button is so available you can’t stop yourself from reacting and, too often, over-reacting?
“What do I lose by flying off the handle? What do I gain by letting their emotional tirade run its course before responding?
Make time at the dinner table or in the living room. Go in their room and sit on the floor. Just make time for the two of you…
Ask about their day when you aren’t making dinner, checking Facebook, or answering a phone call. Put the devices away, make them a cup of coffee, and put your feet up on the coffee table. Then, after you’ve asked your question? SHUT. UP. Seriously. The easiest way to get your teen to talk is for you to stop.
Once you’ve established a pattern of give and take in the conversation?
Amp it up. Don’t settle. Ever.
Find out where they like to hang out and take them there.
My kids love the Tea House or funky coffee shops. We like to go there and act like tea snobs. One kid likes to ride his bike. We go on bike rides together when the weather cooperates. Maybe your son wants to explore the art section at Michaels or could talk non-stop about the latest games at your local game store. Go with them. Let them tell you all about it. Educate yourself on more than their school schedule. Find their passion. Engage in it.
Have a mental list of questions you ask in the car while you drive from place to place. What questions??
Socratic questions are a great way to engage someone in good dialogue.
Want some Examples of Socratic Thinking?
Apply this process to the TV show or movie you recently watched.
In order to continue attending youth group, my boys must answer the following 3 questions:
- What was the text?
- What was the main point?
- How can you apply this to your life this week?
It is amazing to me how, once they get started, I hear all the nitty gritty of youth group without them feeling grilled about their friends and activities.
Go to the video store and rent a movie from your own childhood/teen years and watch it together.
Reminisce about life when you were 15. Tell a few stories where you weren’t the hero. Share from your mistakes and remember how you felt when struggling to understand the world you were beginning to see.
Include them in your own creative process. Ask for their input on your work, your investments of time and effort, the church you are going to, the blog post you just wrote.
I asked my 16 year old to read this and tell me if he thought it was accurate or could be improved. He had some amazing insights.
“If there was one thing that I would add…it would be that teens…are constantly making different connections, or in more concrete terms, neural path-ways and adore it when they can discuss fascinating or seemingly pointless quandaries. …I find myself constantly thinking, no matter what task I am doing.
‘Oh, look at the refrigerator. I wonder what it was like before humanity used electricity? Hmm, speaking of electricity, what was it like for Thomas Edison to revolutionize this specific part of our modern world, but wait… He stole a lot of ideas from other inventors. Is there ever an acceptable time to steal something from someone even if it means being able to make the world a better place?’
And, voila, I have…constructed a…deep ethical question. After my mental escapade, I usually find either you or Dad and ask for an opinion [to] either echo my new founded [perspective] or challenge it in a way that betters my understanding.” – Isaac
Go big sometimes. Take your teenager on a road trip, just the two of you. Listen to their music. Laugh at their jokes. Eat candy together.
This weekend, my husband absconded with the younger boy to a cabin in the woods for an overnighter. They took microwave food, a hand crank radio, and sleeping bags. The goal was to hang out and just have fun. Bigger conversations might happen. Or they might not. Either way they will come back with inside jokes and references I won’t get. That is totally cool.
Praise them to their friends and to your peers.
This is really more of an intangible with repercussions that have the potential to resonate throughout your whole family. Let your teens know you are proud of them. Announce to the world, the family, Facebook, that you admire their strengths and empathize with their weakness. Be safe.
Leave them alone…. Let them come to you. When they do? Stop everything and listen.
Stay quiet while the struggle for words rises and falls and faces flushed with emotion struggle to get a heart’s cry out.
You have, in your home, a newly formed man or woman with the potential to be your dearest friend or a stranger who won’t remember your birthday and can’t wait to get out of your house.
As parents, we set the tone. It’s our job and our responsibility.
Oh, friend, the blessings are incalculable.
Connect with your children. Start when they are young and the conversations will deepen over time. Make a list of intentional moments to share with them. BE the parent who loves every stage and phase, not merely one who dreads and despises individuality.
The teen years are a season of questions yearning for answers. Ask good questions and you may find answers you weren’t expecting that could transform your family.
“…always being available to listen and thoughtfully respond means the most to me. The moments where I feel most blessed to have you guys is when we are sitting down to watch a show and you pause it…to, thoughtfully, contemplate what I am saying. When Dad is shipping and he puts down the tape gun, not to tell me I am wrong, but to wrestle with this concept along side me. “ -Isaac
Oh, that hits me in the soft, tender places. Don’t you feel it too?
“Those moments mean the most to me. The reality of the situation is they don’t always happen at a table whilst the steam from a freshly brewed latte elegantly undulates into the air. They happen when the thought comes to me in the seemingly monotonous points of the day.” – Isaac
Make the most of this time. It moves so fast.
You only get one shot.