Parent Blog: Living with teens
Talking to Your Teen …. Again – cuz sometimes the other way doesn’t always work.
By: Emilia Jae
One of the toughest parts of talking with my teens (both my offspring and the ones in my classroom) is LISTENING. I’m not talking about responding to what they are saying with my opinion or point of view. Just focusing on what they are saying with no response prepared. Tough but possible.
Remember, you are dealing with an animal that is more self-centered than a toddler. They are all about themselves and only themselves. The moment you start to say “this is what I think…” the input channel in their heads change the frequency and they are watching their favorite video/playing an online game/sleeping in some other dimension. Fail.
With your own child, find something they are confident about. Something they are well-versed in or enjoy. This can be a video game, a type of music, a sport, style of clothing…I realize this list could take up the whole page. You get the idea. Find a time they are “available” (not running out the door or finally sitting down to complete homework after you threatened them or waiting for a text from … someone). Ask them about that thing. That passion.
Be casual. Maybe even practice in front of the mirror. Or with your significant other. Or your toddler. “I saw this girl longboarding the other day and she was texting at the same time! Is it really that easy?”… “Are there different kinds of boards?” Maybe even do a little research.
Okay, this is where your instincts will really try to kick in. Resist.
If they shrug or roll their eyes, don’t react. Just sit. They may answer. They may walk away.
Try again later.
When you finally get an answer, have follow up questions. And make them authentic. Even if you have to fake it (and you probably will) act interested. And DON’T give your critique, opinion, related story etc. Just a final “thanks”. (By the way – this will really throw them off. One of the perks)
Try this a couple times – use what we educators call “Teachable Moments”. If you notice said child is playing a certain game or watching a movie, join them. My husband noticed my son was getting back into weight lifting. He just went into the basement and started lifting next to him. When my son offered advice, he thanked him, even though he already knew the info my son shared.
If it gets to a point where you and your teen have shared a few times on a subject, you may find the moment to ask, “Would you like my input/advice/experience?” You may get a “no thanks”. Accept that. Bite that tongue.
Believe it or not, the more you do this, the less weird it will seem. You should notice that it will become more natural and you can even offer follow-up questions.
So is the point of this to become an expert in the current video game? No, but what a great by-product! It’s to show that you respect your child’s world. I know you believe that he/she needs to show respect first however, in their minds – they believe we don’t respect them or their world. Remember – toddlers.
Be strong! It pays off. And remember to LISTEN. (really: practice in front of the mirror first)
Emilia Jae is a certified special education teacher with over 30 years experience. Her family consists of a husband of 28 years and 2 adult children in university. She loves to write, spend time with her family, travel, read, explore the wilderness, exercise and ride her motorcycle. She claims she will never grow up and her behavior bears that out.