Softening Your Teen's Hardened Heart
- Thursday, February 01, 2007
Editor's Note: This is the second article in a two-part series. Click here to read Part I.
Our purpose in writing about a closed heart is not to make parents feel guilty. Rather, we want to provide hope. We have closed the hearts of our own wives and children many times. But it's possible to reopen an angry, closed heart, and next we'll show you how. We have found four essential steps in the process of doing it.
1. Reflect Tenderness.
When we realize a teen's heart is closed, the first step in opening it is to express a softness, or tenderness. To reflect tenderness to your teen, we want you to …
• lower your voice
• become gentle in heart
• get down on bended knee
• speak slowly
• relax your facial expressions
• become pleasant in your demeanor
All of these reflect honor and humility, and as the Bible suggests, "A gentle answer turns away wrath." When we become tender, we communicate four important things. We're saying:
A. The teen is valuable and important. We express this in nonverbal ways: We're slow to move toward him. Our heads may be bowed, and we're obviously grieved that we have hurt him.
B. We don't want to see her heart closed. We care about her.
C. We know something's wrong. We acknowledge by our softness that an offense has taken place, and we're going to slow down long enough to correct whatever has happened.
D. We're open to listening. It's safe for him to say how he feels about what has happened, and we're not going to get angry or hurt him again.
Once we become soft, the next step is to better understand our teen's pain.
2. Increase our own understanding.
It's important to genuinely understand the pain a teenager feels and how she has interpreted our offensive behavior. We must ask for her perspective on what occurred so we can validate her feelings or needs. Taking the time to see someone as unique and very valuable is true friendship. We must resist the urge to defend ourselves, lecture, or question why she did or didn't do something.
Instead, it is important to empathize with our teens. Empathy is identifying with and understanding the other person's situation, feelings, and motives. Empathy is easy to give. You start by taking a guess at what your son or daughter may be feeling.
Listening and empathizing communicates that you believe your child has something valuable to say; consequently, she feels valuable. Listening shows that you respect her as a person; empathy communicates that you understand her. Listen to understand rather than to respond; desire to understand more than to defend yourself. In other words, listen with your heart — hear her pain and feel her needs.
When we're really listening, we don't need to tell anybody — it's evident. You can bet our teens know whether we're truly listening or faking it. We show we're listening by our body language, by nonverbal responses like facial expressions and eye contact, and by the follow-up questions we ask. Furthermore, we give cues that demonstrate we're paying attention. A good listener:
• is attentive, not distracted; does not look around or do something else at the same time
• does not rush the speaker
• is focused on the person speaking
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