The objective of this article is to help parents develop bonds with their teenagers way before the fact to help prevent troubled adolescents who lack parental connections.
By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Summary: Listening is the foundation stone of genuine communication. We must become good listeners and confidants of our children if we are to see them safely through adolescence. This article describes some techniques.
First, find a time when young people want it. Give your undivided attention; concentrate and don’t interrupt.
Hear the youngster out before responding. Don’t say “yes” before he is finished speaking. This is a conversation stopper.
Listen calmly. In the heat of family differences, our anger or excitement can take over. Nothing can be decided rationally in the heat of raised emotions. Settle down, arrange for some privacy, and really listen to your child’s point of view.
You don’t have to condone your child’s behavior, attitude, or habits. It is important to accept his feelings about it without being critical.
Learn to listen between the lines. Ask yourself what your child is really trying to say. What are his real feelins and what is he trying to accomplish with what he is doing? Sometimes–often-the words and actual feelings of the person we are listening to differ. Listening helps us to tune in .
Permit expression of feelings. Many young people have views different from ours with respect to morality, marriage, work, education, time, money, and many other aspects of our lives. We need to understand and acknowledge their way of seeing things. This doesn’t mean they are always correct or believe some of these things themselves. They are often just testing their ideas . This means that we must listen first, acknowledge their opinions, and then give ours plainly and honestly.
We give direct answers to direct questions and when we don’t know the answers we join our children in a search for new and better solutions to their problems. This collaborative approach might even help them to listen to us.
Avoid barriers to self-expression. This means avoid nagging, sarcasm, preaching, and making small things into big things. Don’t belittle, humiliate, or laugh at youngsters. This causes deep wounds and stops the flow of ideas. Starting sentences with “how come” and “you should” blocks expressions of feeling. Encourage expression of ideas by saying, “uh-huh”, “Hmmm”,or “I see.” Make sure you leave plenty of time for conversation. Don’t make it hurried. This implies lack of interest.
Develop a courteous tone of voice. If we talk to our offspring like we talk to our neighbor’s children, they would be much more likely to seek us out as confidants. Respect engenders respect.
Hold a family conference. Most teens feel that they have little or no voice in family matters. Let them help to manage their family. These family gatherings, held once weekly, or more if necessary, offer an excellent opportunity for a family talk, for children to participate in decision-making, and for working things out together. When each member has a voice and participates, greater cooperation and responsibility in family matters are elicited from the teen or younger child on his way to being a teen. Though Dad or Mom usually call these meetings-and usually once week;y–anyone can call a meeting. They aren’t always easy to arrange and carry out but they are well worth the trouble. Too many families pay lip service to this practice in family democracy but don’t really give it an honest try.