I have two boys. Both are great kids. They are 13 and 17 years old. Their bodies are going through what everyone that age goes through. And that means some days they have an attitude, they seem angry, they don't want to talk...while the very next day life is sunshine and roses and they think they've never had a bad day. Some kids begin this behavior as early as the tween, or young teen, years. And many people associate teens with adolescence problems.
But talking to teens, or a child of any age, doesn't have to be stressful. So many parents get stuck in the trap of assuming it's not going to go well, so they walk on eggshells, so the kid gets defensive, and the parent "knows" they were right about how it would go. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. One that repeats itself nearly every day, with parents and children alike getting frustrated.
I'll be honest up front - I'm not done yet. While I know what Scripture and research say about teens, I'm obviously still working it out. But based on what I do know, I'm here to offer some suggestions.
First, see Jesus in your child. Every day. Don't stop. Jesus Christ lives in us if we have accepted him as our Savior (need to know more? Read here.). We learn this in 2 Corinthians 13:5. If Jesus lives in us, then we need to expect to SEE Him in our family members - even our kids. I agree this can be difficult. Especially when our child isn't acting like Jesus lives in him. But when my son is cranky, and I imagine Jesus in him, I respond more tenderly than I would otherwise. Give it a try. This is the best first step to really talking with your kids.
Assume the best. Love believes all things, keeps no record of wrongs, and is not easily angered (1 Corinthians 13, various verses). I know this can be difficult. But when you feel yourself getting frustrated, remember this list. The full verse has lots more, but I figured three is a good starting place. Believe that your child wants to be a good person who makes good decisions. Believe that your child doesn't really want to upset you (the Jesus part of him/her 😃). What happened in the past stays in the past (keep no record of wrongs). Starting to get upset? Take a break. Research shows that even a small break in a tough conversation can cool tempers and have a better outcome than simply continuing to get angry. Go outside for a minute. Take the dog - she'll appreciate it!
Really pay attention & listen. Often our kids are NOT saying things that are very important. To 'hear' them, we need to be paying attention. For instance, with both my sons I know that when they are exceptionally short-tempered, something else is going on. They aren't really upset with me, they are upset about something else and I'm a safe place to be distracted with their thoughts. Don't get me wrong - disrespect is not tolerated in our home. But when I listen to what their words say, and what their tone says, I can read between the lines to respond in a way that is appropriate for the situation. Sometimes that response means I hold off on certain topics until later. That's not babying them - it's sound communication skills. The importance of listening in the Bible is clear - James 1:19 points out the importance of listening (and not getting angry in the process). The topic of listening is larger than I can cover today. If you really can't pay attention to your child when she is telling you something (this should be rare), ask her to come back in 5 minutes so you can get to a stopping point. you'll be amazed at how well things go when you really tune in.
I hope these ideas help. I'm practicing them every day too! Being a parent takes a lot of intentionality. I know it's hard work, especially after you and the kids have all had a long day, but I promise it's worth the effort!
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