by Mark Gregston
People were made to communicate and be in fellowship with one another, so when our need to connect is stifled or lacking, it creates within us a longing to engage. I can remember when I was a kid, I spent lots of time talking to my mom, but having conversations with my dad wasn’t the norm. Now, that was partly due to the era and the way things were done back then, but not having that communication with him created a void in me that made me realize I not only wanted something different, but I wanted to do things differently, too.
The way that today’s teen communicates may have changed—they may talk more with their thumbs, and less with their mouths—but it doesn’t mean they’re not interested in connecting with you. Teens really do want parental involved in their lives; they just want it on their own terms. So, if you’re interested in learning how to keep the lines of communication with your teen open, then keep reading because I’m going to share eight tips that will help you keep the art of conversation with your teen alive and thriving.
Eight Keys to Better Communication
- Watch your parenting style. These three styles are no longer effective once your child hits the teen years: the perfectionist, the authoritarian, and the judge. These three styles will shut down the lines of communication between you and your child faster than you can say, Bye, Felicia.
- Quit correcting them all the time. Your teen lives in an appearance and performance-based world, so, if the only thing they hear from you is constant correction, they’ll quickly tune out and miss out on the wise guidance that you can provide. Research shows that it takes four affirming statements to counter one negative statement, so, watch what you’re saying to your teenager and how you’re saying it.
- Spend more time listening than you do talking. We’ve all heard the phrase, God gave us two ears and one mouth—well, it’s true. Use them accordingly. When you listen to your teen first, they’ll be more likely to listen to you later.
- Determine to leave your conversations open-ended or leave your teen with a question. There are very few meaningful conversations can be wrapped up in one sitting, and only a handful of questions require immediate answers, so leave the door open for more. When the time arises, welcome them back with a friendly smile and the opportunity to engage in deeper discussion and a more meaningful connection.
- Toss the ball in their court. Ask them questions that make them think and reflect on the topic and issue at hand. Leave them with something that will stimulate a deeper thought.
- Keep the discussions about them and only share your opinions about a situation when they ask. Proverbs 18:2 tells us that “a fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in his own opinions.” Mom and Dad, don’t be that person.
- Remember that every conversation doesn’t need to be a lesson. You can answer their questions, but be sure to leave room for your teen to learn and solve problems on their own.
- Sometimes silence is the not only the best response, but it’s the greatest answer. Again, Scripture reminds us that “even fools are thought to be wise and discerning, if they keep silent.”
Tips on Changing the Dynamic of Conversation
The truth is your teen wants to talk, and they want to talk to you! So, ask questions, and then follow the conversation where they take it.
Put your phone down and wait for your teen to follow suit. If they don’t follow your lead, set some boundaries regarding phone usage.
Ask yourself whether technology and social media are distracting you. Set the example by being engaged with your child. Less tech time, more teen time.
Learn if your teen’s fascination with the phone and social media is a mask. Is your teen seeking value from a virtual world because they aren’t feeling valued in the real world?
And finally, listen to what your teens are telling you. They want to be heard just as much as you did when you were their age, so listen.
Mom, Dad … your teens want to talk. They just don’t know how to because they’re being raised in a culture where it’s more about communicating with their thumbs than with their mouths. They live in a world where it’s more about presentation than content. More about appearance than the condition of the heart. You haven’t been replaced, you’ve been nudged out—not by a generation gap, but by technological influence that thrives on appearance and presentation. And your teens are consumed more by social constructs and defaults than by intentional ignoring. Your role is to break through this cultural influence and give them an example of what a deep and meaningful conversation is all about. So, you have to be intentional if you want to be more influential than what they are learning from their phones.