Nine Keys to Connecting With
New Life Ministries
Do you feel like your teen is speaking a foreign language? Here
are some tips to help.
1. Trust earns you the right to be heard. Isn't
"your right" already guaranteed simply because you're
a parent? It should be, but in the real world it isn't. Your teens
are focused on the here and now. They're probably not thinking
about all the sacrifices you've made for them through the years
or even how much you love them. But they will, almost instantaneously,
recall the "injustices" you've caused: your "countless"
broken promises, the times you blamed them for things they insisted
they didn't do, days when you were "too busy." While
perfect parenthood should never be your goal, it is important
to build trust by earning the right to be heard.
2. Your attention builds trust. Teens know
that love shown by parents says, "Your life is important,
daughter (or son), and I'm going to give you my time." Spend
time with them, show them you will listen and talk and work things
out together. Invade their world ... and let them invade yours.
3. Breathing room = trust. Invading their world
should be balanced with plenty of space. Invading their world
doesn't mean you continually nose into their business. Teens need
room to grow, to make their own decisions. This is crucial for
their development into responsible adults.
4. Watch what you say and how you say it. The
best intentions in the world can backfire if you use the wrong
words. Phrases like "You never," "You always,"
"You don't ever" sound accusing and can cause your teen
to become defensive and ultimately to shut down. When you speak,
stress your particular wants and feelings by using "I."
For example, saying, "I want" or "I feel"
are effective places to begin.
5. Take interest in what your teen has to say.
A few years back, a TV talk show on parent-teen relations confirmed
the need for parents to take a stronger interest in their kids.
Teen after teen shared stories of heartache about life at home
with parents who were out of touch with their kids. As the show
ended, the host asked the audience for their comments. A 14-year-old
boy stood with his mother and shared these words with a national
TV audience: "This is my mom. She knows me." You can
close the gap by taking a genuine interest in your teen and his
or her world. Tune into feelings and try to look at events at
home or at school from your teen's point of view, as well as your
own. If your teen senses that you don't really understand or care,
he or she will stop listening to you. But when you're clearly
doing your best to understand, the chances are much greater that
your teen will tune in to you.
6. Learn to listen. One of the biggest complaints
I've heard from teenagers is that their parents just don't listen.
"My parents don't understand me." "We can't seem
to communicate." "Things could be better if they'd just
give me a chance - and listen!".
7. Control your anger. Many parents fail to
acknowledge the extent of their anger. What's more, the parents
expect their teenager to exhibit a maturity level that he or she
has not yet attained. A father may harshly command his teen, "You
will not speak to me that way. That is disrespectful, and I won't
put up with it." The teen walks away and the father has "won"
the argument. Yet the father has exhibited the very behavior that
he does not allow his teen to show.
Listening is the only constructive way to process anger. As you
become a better listener, your teen will begin to feel understood.
He or she may not agree with you but will respect you because
you have treated him or her as a person. Your teen will be more
inclined to follow your leadership.
8. Be flexible. It's easy to approach your
teens with tunnel vision. You know what you want and that's all
you see. Unfortunately, tunnel vision will make you completely
unaware of the needs of your teen. And that's how many family
arguments get started - with people screaming demands at each
other, blind to the needs of the others involved.
9. Make "shared meaning" your goal. If
you're tired of pointless arguments with your teenager that never
seem to accomplish anything - except maybe your blood pressure
rising and him or her being grounded - try a communication style
called shared meaning. The goal of shared meaning is to be heard
accurately. And once you've had a chance to state your case and
listen to your teen's perspective, the foundation is set for communication
- and for a fair solution to what's bugging you.
Excerpted from the book How to Speak Alien by Michael Ross.
Used by permission of New Life Ministries. If you'd like more information
about Parenting materials, call us at 1-800-NEW-LIFE or visit our
Web site at www.newlife.com.
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