1. Be a Listener
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First and foremost, we must be quick to listen. Oftentimes as parents, we can be so adamant about getting our point across, we forget to listen. Growing up, I recall being told that children were to be “seen and not heard.” Having an opinion and daring to share it was the ultimate source of disrespect. Yet, this need to remain silent didn’t end with me having more respect for my parents but led me to keep quiet when I struggled with hard moments. When having a tough conversation, we shouldn’t be the only one speaking. When we listen, we may find that we were incorrect in our thinking or that our teens are really hurting over the situation.
If there is no one else in the world who has a listening ear for our teens, we should. If we don’t validate our children’s feelings, someone else will.
Listening to your teen doesn’t mean that you must agree with their thoughts or bend to their desires, but it will give you understanding of how they think and why. When in doubt, seek to do more listening and less speaking for effective communication.
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19)
2. Ask Questions
Much like being a listener matters, asking questions for deeper understanding is also important. When we fail to get clarity, we are left to make assumptions. Chances are your teen may feel completely different than you on the topic at hand. We never want to miss an opportunity to remind them that what’s in their heart matters.
As a Professor of Counseling Psychology, I often teach the budding counselors in my classes the power of asking powerful questions. One question can make the difference between you or your teen coming to agree or disagree with the matter at hand. Consider the following kinds of questions.
Can you share more about what you feel on this?
Am I understanding this correctly?
When you say ______, are you meaning ______?
How can I partner with you to make this situation better?
On a scale of 1-10, how frustrated does that make you?
If you were the parent, how would you respond to this?
Is there anything more I need to know?
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