Your Teens Need You to Notice Them
- Friday, November 03, 2000
By Rodney Gage
Too often we barely focus on the person standing in front of us, much less on a teenager who hides in her/his room or one whose busy schedule keeps him/her out of the house. How do teens get attention? Hair and clothing choices may be one way. Loud music says I'm here! Angry words, slamming doors, even the dreaded silent treatment all scream for attention.
When teens' needs for notice are not met, they will - by behavior or attitude - get your attention - often negatively rather than positively.
What parents can - and should - do is to give them the positive attention they need in order to elicit positive behaviors and attitudes in their children.
What teenagers need:
Pay attention when your teen is talking. Turn off the TV and give them your undivided attention.
Watch body language and facial expressions for clues about your teen's feelings.
In a discussion, if the situation is not life-threatening, agree to disagree. Remember, your teen may be trying out different beliefs and attitudes to see what fits, how others react, and how the words sound coming from her/his mouth.
Say I'm available, then be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If it's not convenient to talk, give your teen a time frame (I'll be through in 10 minutes. I want to talk to you.) One dad told his secretary to interrupt any meeting when his teen called.
Look at events from the teen's point of view.
Go to school-sponsored events. Chaperone a church youth trip (with your teen's permission). Offer to bring food to a fellowship.
Take a group of younger teens out for pizza and let them sit at another table.
Listen to their conversation while you are driving.
Watch the TV programs and movies your teen watches and discuss these.
Listen to and discuss the songs your teen prefers. Don't condemn the music. Try to understand why he/she likes the song. Ask your teen how it makes her/him feel or what message she/he hears.
Work on homework together. Show your teen study shortcuts you learned. Get her/him to explain the subject to you so you can help.
Do something special with your teenager.
Spend time alone with each teen in your family. Plan a regular (weekly, monthly, bimonthly) date if possible.
Brainstorm a list of activities to do with your teen. Together select several and write these on the family calendar.
Let your teen teach you something (how to use the computer, how to play chess, how to program the VCR).
Explore new places with your teen (a used clothing store, a bike trail).
Also remember to...
Indicate that you think about your teenager during the day. "I thought about what you said..." "I saw something today that reminded me of you..." "A friend at work expressed the same opinion you had about... "
Occasionally invite the teen into your world (for lunch or on an interesting business trip).
Eat dinner as a family. At least three days a week make it a priority to sit down together for food and conversation.
Always greet your teen in the morning, when returning home, or when the teenager walks into a room.
From Why Your Kids Do What They Do by Rodney Gage, copyright (c) 1999. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tenn., 1-800-233-1123.
Rodney Gage is president and founder of Rodney Gage International, an interdenominational ministry aimed at parents and teenagers alike. He has spoken in more than 500 churches across the country and his Wise Up school assembly program has been heard by more than 2 million students worldwide. Rodney's previous books include If My Parents Knew and Let's Talk About AIDS and Sex.
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