Learn parental architecture
You can be the architect of situations that pull you and your teens together—going places together where they would like to go and doing things that will be fun for them.
Perhaps they would rather not do certain things with you because they feel they will be criticized by their friends for doing things with their parents. If this is the case, perhaps you could just be their chauffeur sometimes and take them and their friends on outings. That way, at least you’re there. Perhaps they can invite a bunch of friends over for an evening, or to spend the night, and again, you will be there.
Look for ways that you can merge your lives. This may mean both sides making changes. But as you try, I will show you ways that you can connect. You can connect through having a joint project you work on together: a carpentry project, a sewing or cooking project, a pet, or a garden.
Discover the art of listening
Listening to your kids is one of the main ways you can help them. Learn to really listen. When you ask, “How was school?” stop and listen to how their day went. When problems are presented to you, you don’t always have to comment on the spot. Rather than pass judgment, take time to think about it, or pray for a solution. The main thing is to be a listener; provide a listening ear, as well as love and encouragement and support.
Some teens were asked, “How do you know when your parents aren’t listening to you?” They came up with the following answers: “If they’re not looking at me.” “If they’re reading the newspaper while I’m talking.” “If they keep vacuuming or cooking and say, ‘Go ahead, I can hear you.’”
Then the teens were asked, “How do you know when your parents are listening to you?” Most of them said, “If they stop what they’re doing when I’m talking to them.”
A father finds the key
Here is one father’s account of finding the key to communicating with his teen:
Over the last few months we have had a breakthrough with our teen son. The key was sports. Taking an hour or so to play soccer with him each day is helping him through a difficult stage in his life. Fourteen-year-old Tim is a pretty high-powered boy and had been getting into a lot of trouble.
Shocked at how badly our once nice kids seemed to be turning out, my wife and I realized we needed to get on the ball. We decided we had to start spending more personal time, one-on-one with our teens. I focused on Tim, and my wife spent more time with our 17-year-old daughter.
Tim tended to vent his anger and frustration in aggressive competitiveness, and he was such a bad loser that he was hard to be around. In other areas he was unreliable. His chores and other things he started were left undone. We were on his case continually. At first it just seemed impossible to get through to Tim. The door to his life was locked to my wife and me. We were desperate to find the key, some small point of agreement that we could start to build on.
Tim seemed to have only one interest, and that was soccer. He wasn’t on a team, and I had mixed feelings about Tim getting more involved in this sport, since he already wasn’t getting along well with others. Finally, in the hope of getting closer to Tim, I decided to enter his world and play some soccer with him each day. With this small amount of communication and active involvement, to my amazement Tim quickly began to change and open up. Soon, other people were commenting how much he was changing and becoming such an outgoing, communicative, confident, fun and pleasant teen to be around. (And frankly, I too am feeling a whole lot healthier and happier. Getting outdoors and playing an active sport can do more than burn pent-up teen energy—it can provide a release from parental frustration as well.) For sure it beats the direction Tim seemed to be heading, becoming a bored couch potato or an asocial computer addict, or fighting with someone, or figuring out what mischief to get into next.
Text excerpted from "Parenteening" by Derek and Michelle Brookes. © Aurora Production; used with permission. Image by ipswitch20 via Flickr.