If you are not currently seeing the mobile version of the website on your mobile device, click here.
My own teenage son is currently 14 and getting closer to looking eye to eye with me every day. (Seems like he’s grown a foot since we took this pic six or seven months ago.) My wife and I both have warm, affectionate personalities. So it has always been natural for us to have close, physically affectionate relationships with our son. But with his growing age and changing development as a man, I can feel this natural connection being challenged. Especially with me. My little boy is no longer a little boy. He’s not even a big boy anymore. He is undeniably a young man now. Still a lot of growing up yet to do, no doubt. But the boyhood days are now in the rear-view mirror, adolescence is the here and now, and adulthood is not far away on the horizon. And I can feel the impact and tension when it’s time for hugs and kisses.
And the crazy part?
It’s me. Not him. My son is still as affectionate with his Mom and me as he has ever been. Hugs and kisses still mean a lot to him, and he obviously wants them from both of us. And today as I was telling him goodbye before he leaves on a little trip, I realized it: Mr. Marriage and Family Therapist Dad needs to get over the natural awkwardness that is coming with this life transition. If you are a parent of a teenage son or daughter – especially if you are a Dad – I’ll bet you know what I’m talking about. Whether it is something hardwired inside, or something programmed from our rapidly changing culture, we feel something that tells us to be more physically guarded and less physically affectionate with our adolescents.
But you know what? They still need that healthy, close physical affection from us. And that means we need to adjust, deal with our own discomfort, and be intentional about continuing to share positive physical touch with our teenage sons and daughters. Here are just four of the many reasons this is so important for Moms and Dads of teens – especially us Dads.
1. It affirms them deeply during a time when they may be filled with self-doubt or searching to find a solid sense of identity. Let’s face it. The teenage years are often marked by turbulence, doubt, and searching. Life becomes so much more complex for them as they emerge from childhood into the layers and opportunities and dangers of adolescence. And they desperately need a foundation of strong love and acceptance from the most important adults in their lives – Mom and Dad.
2. It helps them feel healthy and confident about their body. At a time when their bodies are going through so many intense changes, they need those healthy hugs and kisses from their parents to help them continue to feel good about their physical selves. Positive touch from Dad and Mom shows them their bodies continue to be normal, good, and lovable – even though everything about them seems to be changing.
3. Research continues to show teenage sons and daughters are much less likely to seek unhealthy physical affirmation when they have regular healthy affirmation from parents – especially Dads. They are less likely to get into legal trouble and less likely to get into major school trouble. In short, adolescents with a strong healthy bond (marked by healthy physical affection) have a stronger sense of self and healthier boundaries. And this means a better self-image. It means better relationships. And it basically means a better life. Fellow fathers – our kids need those healthy touches, hugs, and kisses from us so much, especially during their teen years!
4. It reminds them you will always love them and be available to them as they face the changes and challenges of life. Yes, our relationships with our kids do need to change and grow over the years as they develop through all the seasons and stages of life through adolescence and adulthood. But they need to feel the reassurance from us that our love for them will not waver. Feeling that strong connection with us throughout their adolescent journey helps to impress upon them a lasting compass they can take with them wherever adulthood may lead them.
“But my son/daughter doesn’t seem to want closeness or affection from me.” Well, we certainly don’t want to smother them or express physical affection to them that is not really reflective of our overall emotional relationship. And, of course we need to respect proper physical and sexual boundaries. Crossing those lines means abuse – not affection. But, whether they seem to naturally want your affection or not, they really do need it. Work on building the kind of conversational and emotional relationship with them so that expressing love through healthy hugs and kisses is a natural part of your connection.
And I’ll be working on it, as well. I could tell when my son left earlier today, he was eager for meaningful goodbye hugs and kisses from me. And I probably gave him a C+ effort. When he gets home, I’m gonna aim for a solid A. No, I don’t want to weird him out. But I don’t want to let him down, either. He means too much to me to let him down on something where I know what he needs. Know what I mean? Happy hugging!
Searching for “parenting” in the books section of Amazon yields a mind-boggling list of over SIXTY THOUSAND results! There are enough competing opinions and voices out there to make your head spin. But what if those differing parenting perspectives aren’t just “out there,” but right in your own home? What are you supposed to do when you and your own spouse disagree about how to handle parenting decisions? For the sake of your relationship, and for the benefit of your kids, you will do well to find peaceful, mutually respectful ways to cooperate and parent from a united front. (For tips on co-parenting with an Ex, see my previous post here.) Here are some practical suggestions to help you do just that:
1. Read parenting books, listen to parenting podcasts, or attend parenting classes or workshops together on an annual basis. This can help you stay on the same page on an ongoing basis, minimizing the occurrence of major philosophical differences regarding parenting dynamics. It can also provide some great ideas for resolving those differences whenever they do arise. The resources at ScreamFree.com and LoveAndLogic.com are some of my favorites. Also, be sure to check with your church of school to see if there are any classes or upcoming workshops or seminars on parenting. If the answer is no, request that they bring someone in to provide something like this. There are a number of professionals like myself who are available for parenting events and classes such as this, and it is an extremely cost-effective way to get practical help to larger numbers of parents. (Discover more about my speaking engagements here and get a sample of my presentation style on my YouTube channel.)
2. Discuss parenting goals together before trying to decide practical solutions. So often when we discuss something as important to us as decisions about our kids, we tend to jump right into solutions. “Let’s do bedtime this way! The right age to start doing chores is this! This is the best school option! Here’s how social media is going to be monitored! Curfew should be this time! Etc.” But before we even try to start hammering out final decisions regarding the many important issues along the way of our children’s lives, we should begin with the end in mind. “What is the big picture, and what is the point? What is our goal regarding this issue? How do we want our child or teen to learn or grow as a result? Is this issue more about child development or our marriage?” These are the kinds of questions that will help us be sure our solutions are purposeful. And the more we are aiming to parent with purpose, the more likely we are to come to agreement and parent like true partners in the journey.
3. Agree to hold off on making major decisions, pronouncements, punishments, etc. until it can be privately discussed together as a parent team. The old “good cop, bad cop” routine may work in some places, but it is a disaster for parenting. Don’t undercut one another by making the big calls without first having discussed it privately, so that you can do your best to present a united front to the kids. If the circumstances demand an immediate decision, and a direct discussion is not possible, at least consider how your spouse would likely see and respond to this situation. And give genuine weight to that perspective, even when you disagree.
4. Plan for new decisions to have a trial period with a parenting assessment/discussion to follow at a set time to decide if adjustments should be made. You are less likely to feel frustration or resentment about your spouse and the parenting choices being made if you know it isn’t a forever decision and will be re-evaluated together with a respectful dialogue. Depending on the issue and the dynamics involved, plan to have a follow-up discussion in a week, a month, or a quarter. If you agree things are going well…GREAT! Keep it going, and be a big enough person to acknowledge when your spouse’s differing ideas are working well. If you agree something needs to change, make a reasonable adjustment. If one feels good about it, but the other does not, be willing to try something different for another trial period in respect to both of you as parents.
5. Never verbally undercut your spouse with your kids. Even when you disagree on decisions being made, and may even be thinking, “See! I knew this would happen!” (or some other criticism), show respect to your spouse and your kids by NOT throwing anyone under the bus through open criticism, wisecracks, etc. Presenting a united front to the kids doesn’t always mean you agree on decisions. But it does mean you respect and support one another. And it also means you don’t openly give your kids opportunities to exploit or manipulate you through divide and conquer tactics that will just lead to worse for your kids, your marriage, and your family as a whole.
6. Have occasional discussions with your kids where you ask for their feedback on how things are going. If you really want to be brave and get some valuable insight, invite them to grade your parenting skills. Some “subjects” could include: Fairness, Consistency, Listening, Disciplining, Fun, etc. And if you are going to ask for your kids’ perspectives, be sure you keep an open mind as you listen. Sometimes hearing directly from our kids can help us see things in a different light than going round and round with our mate about those same issues.
7. Get professional help if you’re really stuck. Far better for your marriage, your kids, and your own peace of mind to invest some time and money in counseling from a qualified professional like a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist than to stay stuck in frustrating patterns that just aren’t getting any better. There are some great professional helpers available. Let us help you!
Parenting kids has become more complex today than ever before. The digital explosion of entertainment and social media has created layers and layers of options, opportunities, dangers, and decisions that we must navigate as we do our best to love and lead our children well. Add to all this the challenging dynamics of dealing with another parent who lives in a different home with different beliefs, values, and expectations, and the whole process can feel totally overwhelming. And it’s especially hard when you and your Ex are disagreeing and butting heads. And if it’s hard on you, think about how hard it must be on your kids, who desperately need you to work it out with as much cooperation and respect as possible. Well, take a deep breath and take heart. Because I’ve got some simple, practical, real life tips to help you navigate the difficulties of c0-parenting with sanity and balance:
- Keep your kids’ well-being first and foremost, above your own personal feelings and preferences. Regardless of how right you think you are, and how wrong you think their other parent is, you’ve got to remember the only person you can ever really control is your self. Are you still speaking and making decisions out of your beliefs about what is best for your child… or are you allowing your self to turn this into a power struggle and personal grudge match? Always come back to asking, “How will MY choices, actions, and words right now affect my child in the coming days and beyond?”
- Aim for consistency between households as much as possible, but DON’T sacrifice a basic climate of respect and peaceful cooperation in your efforts for consistency. Yes, it is much better for our kids to have similar rules, values, and routines in both of their homes. It nurtures a foundation of security and clarity in kids’ hearts and minds. As much as it depends on YOU, make this possible for your precious children. But if your zeal for consistency between households leads to a climate of tension, blame, drawing kids into unhealthy conversations about their other parent, or escalating legal action, then you have made life far more burdensome and difficult for them in the process. For the sake of your kids’ well-being, be wiling to relax and cooperate on some things that aren’t the way you like them, if it will promote a climate of more peace and security for them.
- Plan regular co-parenting conversations regarding how each of the kids are doing physically, emotionally, academically, spiritually, etc. If you make these important conversations a regular and predictable occurrence, they are much more likely to be constructive and helpful than if you wait until problems or frustrations have escalated to near-crisis level. For younger children, aim for monthly co-parenting discussions – more frequently if you have a child with special needs. For teens, quarterly talks along these lines should be sufficient most of the time. Of course, any time something new comes up, be proactive in communicating with the other parent. Depending on the nature of your relationship and personalities, these regular conversations may take place face to face, by phone, or by email.
- Utilize email or an app like Our Family Wizard for communication, planning, and record-keeping of time and expense. DON’T USE TEXTING or other instant messaging apps for communicating important information or discussions. This form of rapid-fire communication is ideal for drawing immediate attention to a critical situation or email. But for regular communication exchanges and discussions, texting is way too likely to lead to emotional escalation, miscommunication, or lost information. Email is a much better method, especially if dealing with your Ex is difficult. And if you don’t know about Our Family Wizard, check it out as soon as you finish this article. It is an outstanding tool for facilitating communication, planning, record-keeping, financial cooperation, and more.
- Focus on giving your kids the healthiest experience you can give them at YOUR home – where you are actually in charge. This is not about competition with your Ex. Not at all. It’s about remembering YOUR HOME is the only place where YOU are really in charge. So your kids need you to focus primarily on what is going on there, and how YOU are doing as a parent. Don’t spend time and energy complaining about or comparing with their other home. And don’t fall into the trap of overcompensating in your home for what you believe are deficits in their other home. Instead, emphasize how life works in your home, and WHY you do life the way you do. Take responsibility for discussing the morals and modes of living you want to see your kids adopt for life, and be sure you practice what you preach. Your kids need you to be a leader, not a reactor.
- Continue to read good parenting books and discover other parenting resources to help you stay on a healthy path for your kids. There are so many great books, websites, podcasts, classes, and other resources to help us on our journey of parenting. Some good ones are: ScreamFree Parenting, Parenting with Love and Logic, and Smart Stepfamilies. Continue to be an eager and open-minded student of parenting and living well, even as you actively teach and lead your kids. And any time you find a resource that is particularly helpful for you, for goodness sake, share it with your kids’ other parent! Just don’t be preachy or judgy about it. That won’t help anyone, no matter how “right” you think you are about it.
- Utilize a professional as needed. If concerns or conflicts reach a high enough level, you may need to reach out for help from a qualified professional, such as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Don’t let pride, stubbornness, or cost stop you from reaching out for help when your kids need you to get it. You don’t have to do this alone. Reach out. Your kids are counting on YOU!
As parents who love our kids, our aim is to raise them to become fully capable and responsible adults who will strive to make a positive impact on the world around them. Right? And that sort of theoretical statement sounds all great and wonderful when our kids are little. But once they hit their teen years, we all start finding out how much we really mean this kind of “mission statement.” Because in adolescence, the line between childhood and adulthood gets really blurry. That’s just the way it is. And our teens need us to stay on the adult side of the line, even as they desperately long to reach grown up status for themselves. Here are three fundamental ways we can help them get closer to becoming strong healthy adults:
1. Let them fail. Yep. That’s what I said, and I meant what I said. If we go about rescuing our teens every time we see them on the verge of blowing it, how do we expect them to be able to handle the tough parts of life when they are adults? Or do we plan on continuing to bail them out through their adult years? YIKES! Equip them? Yes, absolutely! Coach them along the way? You betcha! Step in to redirect of save them whenever we can see they are about to fail? Hold up. I will follow up and expand on this point soon, but we must be able to tolerate seeing our teens fail if we are going to give them our very best as their parents.
2. Admit our own failings and shortcomings to them (in an appropriate way). If we want our teens to arrive at a healthy adulthood for themselves, we need to be willing to paint a realistic picture for them of what that is. Allowing our kids to see our own process of making mistakes, facing them, and doing the work of cleaning up our messes helps them see that adulthood isn’t about attaining some sort of perfection. But it is about humbly admitting our mistakes and doing our best to make things right as we move forward by God’s grace. Just ask my teenager about the bad words he heard me say the other night about half an hour before our family devotional reading from James 3 about taming the tongue. Let your teens know you are still a work in progress. But be sure you share with them how that process of progress works in your life.
3. Share more of our decision-making thought process with them as they mature through their teen years. The older our teens get, the more we should take time to consider their input and the more we should explain to them our own process of making decisions. This doesn’t mean we hand over our parental authority to them while they are still growing through their teen years. But they will be far better equipped to make mature adult decisions if they have seen and heard how their own parents weighed out possibilities, costs, benefits, and consequences, rather than always just giving them rulings from on high, so to speak.
I will expound on each of these points in the coming weeks, but I hope these simple concepts help you gain better clarity in living out your role as parent to the kids in your home who are transforming into emerging adults faster than we ever imagined possible. I mean, it only feels like about three or four years between the images below…
I frequently write about things you can do to improve your relationship with your teen, or things you can do to help get your teen on a better life track. It is easy for us parents to be constantly looking at what our kids can do to improve or what we can do to improve as parents. And aiming for improvement and growth is certainly a positive thing. But today, I thought we would do well to stop and celebrate our parental victories.
What positive character qualities do you see in your teen? Take time this week to celebrate those qualities with your daughter or son, and take a moment to celebrate the reality that you have almost certainly helped contribute to that aspect in your teen’s life. Have you recently held your tongue from making an unnecessary critical comment with one of your kids? Take a moment to celebrate that victory and recognize your own growth as a parent. Have you invested some extra time or energy lately in your teen’s life in a particular way? Give yourself a quick pat on the back for being intentional about pouring into your kids. Has someone complimented your teen for some positive quality or achievement? Of course you should celebrate that compliment with your teen! But you should also have a bit of celebration in what you are doing right as a parent.
Just as our teens and preteens thrive on positive energy and wither on negative energy, so do we as parents. So let’s take a bit of time for some celebration today for all those things we are doing right as parents! Seriously, take some time to list some things. I’ll betcha the list will be longer than you think.
Ever see the movie, Groundhog Day? It is a rather insightful story based on a very farfetched premise. Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a local weatherman who is utterly miserable and discontented with his life. He basically thinks his job is beneath him, and that he should be further along in his life and career than where he is. And then he gets stuck in a time-loop, doomed to repeat the same day over and over and over again – Groundhog Day, the day that most highlights how much he hates where he is in life. The only way he can emerge from his torment is to find contentment today – to see the best in others, make efforts to be a blessing to others, and to find moments of joy in his least favorite time and place. He’s got to stop looking at what he wants beyond today, and be willing to celebrate whatever he already has – today.
How many days of our kids’ lives have we missed because we were so focused on something beyond today? Whether we are dwelling on a future season of our kids’ lives, a future point in our careers, a future home or vacation or vehicle or whatever…if we aren’t focused on today, we are missing it. Just ask yourself how often does the phrase, “I can’t wait until…” escape your lips?
Maybe it’s time to start a revolution in your life. In your home. In your family. In your neighborhood. In your office. You don’t have to stop making plans for down the road. There’s really nothing wrong with that. But let’s decide – for the sake of our kids, our families, and even our own sense of joy and peace – we are going to start living fully engaged in today.
Look around for something beautiful in your everyday routine environment today. I’ll bet there’s something beautiful. Share an encouraging word with someone. I’ll bet there’s someone who would deeply appreciate it. And whatever else you do, notice something amazing in your kids today. I’m sure there’s something amazing to be discovered. And don’t keep your amazement to yourself – share it with your kids. Whether they are preschoolers, preteens, teens, or beyond. I guarantee they would have a better life today if you begin to make it a daily priority to see the wonderful things in your kids right now, and take obvious delight in who they are.
And for a bit more inspiration, enjoy this stirring song by Chris Rice:
“Evan Almighty” has been one of my family’s favorite movies for quite a while. If you’ve never seen this heartwarming family film about God (Morgan Freeman) choosing a modern day Noah named Evan Baxter (Steve Carell), you really should watch it. Through a wild adventure with God, his wife and three sons, congress, a ginormous pile of lumber, and a whole bunch of critters, Evan learns that God really does give each of us the power to change the world through a very simple process: one Act of Random Kindness (ARK) at a time. And I think the makers of this film really are onto something in the midst of their crazy tale. We really do have tremendous potential to change the world for the better, simply be practicing kindness every day with the people around us – wherever we live, work, or attend school.
In this spirit, I am offering you a sort of script you can use with your teens and preteens to open a meaningful conversation with them about the power of kindness. I presented this material recently to a school assembly of seventh and eighth graders, and they really received it. I hope it has already been a blessing to their school. And I hope this will be a blessing to your family, as well.
Kindness: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
The “Golden Rule” reminds us to treat others the way we want to be treated. Do you want to be treated with:
- Rudeness? or Kindness?
- Meanness? or Kindness?
- Arrogance? or Kindness?
- Coldness? or Kindness?
When you have an embarrassing moment, would you rather have people point out and laugh at your mistake…or reach out with encouragement and compassion? Would you rather have someone do something to rub it in and make it worse…or lend a hand to help you get through it? Which way do you respond to others in their moments of embarrassment? How do you think your response affects them?
Do you prefer spending time with people who are kind, thoughtful, considerate, generous, friendly, and encouraging? Or with people who are unkind, thoughtless, inconsiderate, selfish, rude, and discouraging? Think of an example of someone you know who represents each of these types of people. Who would you rather be more like? How can you practice being more like the positive person who came to your mind? What can you do to be a positive influence on the negative person who came to your mind?
If you were a new student in an unfamiliar school, which way would you want to be treated? Is that the way you have welcomed new students into your school (or youth group, etc)?
Do you think apologies are important? What difference do they make? How does it impact you when someone apologizes to you? How does it impact you when someone fails to apologize to you? Do you think it is ever too late for an apology? Why do you say that? Here is a great format for offering an apology that really makes a difference: “I’m sorry I ________. It must have made you feel ________, and I was wrong to do that to you. I’m really sorry. Please forgive me.” If you say or do something hurtful, mean, or teasing to another person, and then respond with some version of “I’m just kidding,” do you think that comment at the end really matters to that person? Does it really make it okay? Or is that just something we say to make ourselves feel better about acting like a jerk?
And finally, here is a simple tale about a boy whose father taught him a valuable life lesson about the power of our words and actions:
There once was a boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day, the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive all those nails into the fence.
Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He felt so proud as he shared this with his father, who suggested the boy now pull out one nail for each day he kept his temper in check. The days passed and the young man was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him out to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son…but look at all those holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say ‘I’m sorry,’ because the wound is still there.”
It only takes a bit more effort to choose kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity, and encouragement over rudeness, thoughtlessness, selfishness, and discouragement. Choose wisely, and see how the world gets just a little better around you day by day as you water the soil of your neighbors with kindness.
(Photos and collage compliments of Sandra “Sam” Morris, who embodied the spirit of this post as well as anyone I know, and who created this very photo collage as a loving welcome gift to me for my first office in Baton Rouge.)
Of all the forms of hatred, violence, and madness that plague our nation and our planet today, school shootings have become a particularly horrifying headline that scream all is not well with us. Too many of these headlines. Too many of these victims. Too many of these perpetrators. And while all the horror of it all may leave us feeling helpless to do anything, I believe this is a great lie. Sure, neither you nor I are powerful or influential enough to change the whole world. But we can change the little pocket of the world in which we live. We really can.
I believe we begin to really truly change our pockets of the world when we decide we are here to serve others, rather than ourselves. And our impact grows broader when we raise our kids to understand that they are also here to serve others, rather than themselves. And this movement of healing and betterment of our soul-sick world doesn’t need to start with some kind of big organization or financial push or impressive “service project.” This healing movement of peace begins with a mindset. And here are some of the primary pillars of that mindset:
1. I am not special. Yes, we are all unique in certain beautiful ways, according to God’s amazing tapestry. But I’ve got to remember that I am not better than you. And I’m not more impressive than you. I’m not more valuable than you. Or more significant than you. Or more worthy than you. We are all in this together, and we all have strengths and limitations to use as we will.
2. I just won’t get my way much of the time. It’s the way of the world, and I need to accept it. But it isn’t some cosmic plan to pick on me, because you are dealing with the same reality. And the sooner you and I willingly accept and embrace this reality that we just won’t get our way much of the time, the sooner we can move on to doing something that really matters for the rest of the world.
3. Thoughtfulness and compassion are powerful beyond measure. Seriously, just make a commitment to start calling restaurant servers, grocery checkout attendants, coffee shop baristas, and the like by their name when you speak with them. That may not keep all the bullets from flying, but it will shine some light into some dark places around you. I guarantee it! And you’re gonna be amazed at how the world really starts to improve around you when you put thoughtfulness and compassion into practice in even bigger and deeper ways. If hatred and fear are our great enemies, thoughtfulness and compassion are our great countermeasures.
4. People are priceless treasures. I will never know the profound ways my life could be enriched by the various people around me if I never make the effort to get to know them. People are people, not objects. If I see others primarily as obstacles, competitors, or tools, I am shortchanging myself and I am contributing to the cesspool of ignorance, fear, and violence that swirls around us all already. And before you try to use my first point to poke holes in this point, consider that I believe all of us are priceless treasures.
5. My most meaningful legacy will be measured by how much I have improved the world around me, not by how much I have harvested from the world around me. Seriously, who left a greater legacy in It’s A Wonderful Life…Mr. Potter or George Bailey? Making a better life for myself and my children and their children is not wrong. In fact, I think it’s a good thing. But what am I doing to make life better for others one day at a time? And how am I leading my kids to make life better for others one day at a time?
And if you would like a Biblical perspective on these issues, take a look at one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. So, let’s stop the shootings! We CAN do this! You and me in all our non-special glory. But we must decide to put ourselves in proper perspective, so we can get the world around us in proper perspective. Then, we can change the world!
Tired of feeling like you’re talking to a brick wall when you try to communicate with your teen? Ranging from fun to fundamental, here are six different ways to shake up the old routine that isn’t working, and help begin a new era of listening and connection at home.
1. Make drive-time count! If you have a teen driver who either has to borrow your vehicle or is still working on supervised hours with a Learner’s Permit, insist on respectful, engaged conversation with you, if they expect you to hand over the keys and hop in for their much-wanted time behind the wheel. No loud music. No headphones. No YouTube. No zoning out. This is conversational prime time. Make the most of it!
2. Soften your tone. This one may not apply to you, but often times there is a self-reinforcing pattern in place with teens and parents where: teens tune out parents…because parents are being too loud or pushy…because teens are tuning out parents…because parents are being too loud or pushy…because teens are tuning out parents… Crazy making, right?!? As a parent, the most effective way to stop this cycle is to calm your self, quiet down, and take charge with compassion and confidence. Rather than getting louder to demand their attention, get quieter to invite their attention. You may think it is easier said than done, or just sounds like hokey counselor’s nonsense, but really try it out. It is surprisingly effective. Works with spouses, too.
3. Partner with technology. Try this one out with the teen who prefers screen time to pretty much everything. Make a short video of yourself telling your teen whatever it is you really want him or her to hear. (Three minutes or less is preferred. Don’t even think about going over five.) This method will work best if you only do it occasionally for something important, and if you are willing to be creative and fun with it. Send it to your teen with an invitation to reply with comments as if they were critiquing you on YouTube, or something.
4. Take some time to “hang out” with your teen first. Before shifting into sharing the message that matters to YOU, take some time to experience something that matters to YOUR TEEN. This doesn’t mean we have to become second-class citizens in our teens’ universe. But it is important for us to consider how much we expect them to pay attention to us without us being willing to pay attention to them.
5. Reward them for removing headphones and looking at you with a listening face. Let’s not get crazy with cash awards or anything, here. But you might be surprised what a game-changer it could be if you begin to find simple ways to reward your teen for taking off headphones, putting aside devices or other distractions, and looking at you with at least an appearance of respectful attention. Here are some possibilities, but you can use anything that teaches them it is in their best interest to listen when you speak to them: – Explain that this behavior builds up points in your grace-bank for the next time they mess up big time. – Occasionally give them a treat such as dinner at their favorite restaurant or a new something you know they’ll like. – Treat them with a free pass from some family activity they’d rather skip. – Treat them with a free pass from a regular household chore.
6. Regularly get your teen’s attention, just so you can tell them something good about them. Be sure you aren’t establishing a pattern that you only want their attention so you can tell them something they don’t want to hear. Get their attention so you can share something you like about them. Get their attention so you can ask about something they like talking about. Get their attention so you can draw attention to an area of positive growth you have seen in them. Get their attention so you can just tell them, “I love you.” Yes, we need their attention to share things they may not like hearing. But let’s not discourage them or wear them out. Give them some conversational goodies on a regular basis, and you’ll go a long way to establishing open lines of respectful attention and communication between you and your teen.