How many parents can say they are good listeners, especially when parenting teenagers? Parents complain that teens won’t talk, won’t open up and that teenagers seem to enjoy keeping secrets from parents. It is part of typical teen behavior for teens to pull away and want to have a separate life from parents. But another factor could also be at play when it comes to parenting teenagers. Are parents good listeners?
The Challenge to be a Good Listener
It’s easier to talk than to listen. In Parenting With Dignity (Alpha, 2005), author Mac Bledsoe writes, “Parents are constantly telling us that their kids won’t talk to them. In almost every case, the problem is not that the kids don’t want to talk. The problem is that the parents don’t want to listen.”
Parenting teenagers means making sure teens are prepared for the adult world. Out of love, many parents want to prevent teens from making mistakes, make sure that teens are caught up on homework projects and warn teens about the dangers they may encounter. In short, well-meaning parents give lots of advice to teens through lectures and nagging but have a tough time being good listeners. Why would teens talk and open up if they know they are going to get a negative response from parents?
Listening as a Tool to Show Love
The chapter entitled “Rule Five: Send a Constant Message of Love” is by far the longest chapter in Parenting With Dignity. Bledsoe suggests that parents show love to kids in a variety of ways every day. Among ways to show love, Bledsoe wrote a section on listening to children. Bledsoe reminds parents, “People who love you will listen to you.” Using respectful communication skills is a way to show love when parenting teenagers.
How to Test Listening Communication Skills
Parents can start with a simple timed test like how to win roulette. When teens talk, can a parent listen for an entire sixty seconds? Listening without interrupting or giving advice is especially difficult for many parents. Sixty seconds can seem endless when parents first try listening to teens.
When parents take the test, they should answer the questions according to how they listen when their teens talk. Parents who normally think of themselves as good listeners to adults may be surprised that they listen to teenagers very differently than they listen to adults. Good communication skills aren’t only effective for the workplace or with adults. They can make a huge difference in the parent-child relationship when parenting teenagers or children of any age.
Simple Communication Skills to be a Good Listener
In Parenting With Dignity, Mac Bledsoe shares six listening words and phrases he learned that worked well with the students in the school where he taught.
I didn’t know you felt like that!
Tell me more!
Getting teens to talk can be as simple as interjecting “listening” comments and then keeping one’s mouth shut.
Some Teens Might be Slow to Open Up
Even after parents improve communication skills and get better at listening, teens may not immediately share their true feelings. It may take time for teenagers to trust that parents won’t lecture, nag or give advice if teens open up and share information with parents. Parents can continue to show love through listening and wait for teens to talk when they feel ready.
One invaluable way to show love to teens is to really listen to them without offering advice or judgment. Parents may be pleasantly surprised to hear teens talk and open up more when parents stop and take time to completely listen. Parenting teenagers is full of challenges and using respectful communication skills can make a big difference in the information teens share with parents.
Parenting Teenagers by Step Publishing
If the baby who couldn’t fit into a square box still can’t follow house rules at age sixteen, parents just might find themselves asking for help from a counselor. Children with strong wills can turn into teenagers with difficult attitudes brandishing wills of steel.
An easy-to-follow parent guide, Parenting Teenagers by Step Publishers can help parents connect with teens. Each chapter lays the foundation for the next while teaching parents to identify important changes in their unique teen-aged child. Topics include the following:
Understanding Yourself and Your Teenager
Take steps to improve the relationship:
- your parenting challenge is to help your teenager become confident, responsible, and independent
- to help your teen by working to improve your relationship
- respect is important for a positive relationship
- your teenager’s behavior has a purpose
In this chapter parents learn the three styles of parenting and how to balance freedom with limits. Parents must give and expect limits while deciding which style of parenting will help meet the family’s goals.
This first chapter will help the parent identify the goals of teen misbehavior with encouraging steps to help ease the stress.
Changing Your Response to Your Teen
Learn how to change an automatic response:
- your teenager has beliefs about how to belong
- your teen’s feelings and behaviors come from these beliefs
- you can show your teen that talking about feelings is okay
- you can change your relationship by changing your response to your teenager
Often, changing an automatic response means doing the opposite of what a teen expects. Parents must grow in order to raise a teenager successfully. For example:
- when parents talk about problems together, the teen sees the value in cooperation
- when parents argue often and loudly, the teen sees the value in fighting
- when parents refuse to compromise, the teen sees the value in getting one’s own way
Communicating Respect and Encouragement
- special skills help you talk together with your teenager
- you can talk about problems without blaming
- you can use encouragement skills to help your teen feel loved, accepted, respected, and valued
- praise and encouragement are not the same thing
- you need to encourage yourself
Have faith in your teen and encourage him that he can succeed. Expectations are powerful. Teens can sense what parents truly believe. Few teens will believe in themselves if parents don’t believe in them first.
Using Consequences to Build Responsibility
- discipline helps your teen become more responsible
- discipline is a way to guide your teen in making choices and decisions
- consequences are a method of discipline that fits the behavior and makes sense to the teen
- using consequences shows respect for all family members
Deciding What to Do
- sisters and brothers can be expected to get along and solve their own problems
- you can work to build trust with your teen and use your skills if lying or stealing becomes a problem
- talking with your teen about the choices and consequences of sex is important
- your skills can be used to help your teen avoid being involved with drugs
- you can practice and use your parenting skills to keep working on your relationship with your teen
This effective parenting guidebook offers problems, answers, steps and systematic training for parenting teens. Each chapter lays a foundation for the next while including many important teen topics like body image, alcohol, sex, suicide.