You ask your teen what is going on with their friends or at school, and this is what you hear:
“It’s fine.” or “Why do you care?”
You realize there’s not just a communication gap here, but a wall. It’s keeping you from entering your teen’s world.
“They won’t listen. They just overreact.”
“My parents would be the greatest parents in the world if they didn’t ask me to be honest about my feelings and then get totally upset when I express my true feelings.”
“I wish they would have said they will love and accept me no matter what I choose to do or what friends I have.”
“I made a mistake with a boy and my parents drilled it out of me. They they told me they were going to talk to him and his parents. That made me feel like I could never trust them with anything again.”
You can see a lot of hurt and mistrust in these teens’ voices. Just what is it that is causing this barrier? According to youth expert and pastor Jay Kesler, here are the top 10 things parents say to kill communication with their teens:
1. “Do as I say, not as I do.”
2. “I’m the adult, so I’m right.”
3. “Because I said so, that’s why.”
4. “You want to be what?”
5. “This room is a dump.”
6. “Can’t you do anything right?”
7. “Where did you find that?”
8. “You did what?”
9. “Can we talk about something else?”
10. “Can we talk about this later?”
As parents, we recognize that teens are still learning and need our guidance. They are prone to make bad decisions out of a lack of understanding or experience.
But to teens, these 10 statements all say, “I don’t care what you have to say or how you feel, you just need to do what I say.” When a teen perceives his opinion/ideas/person are not valued, or safe to share, he builds up a wall of protection.
Here are two ways to break through that wall:
1. Own your mistakes. Think back through situations that may have caused your teen pain: divorce, words exchanged in an argument, repeated words of accusation or insult. As parents, it’s our job to take responsibility when we’ve said or done something wrong. When you’ve identified these areas, go to your teen and ask for forgiveness. Be specific, too; don’t just say, “I’m sorry if I’ve ever hurt you.” As you change your actions, demonstrating that you mean what you said, your teen’s heart will begin to soften.
2. Listen to your teens. Really listen to them. James 1:19 says, “…be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” For most of us, we’re slow to listen, quick to speak and even quicker to get angry. If you want to break through to your teen, make an effort to hear and understand what they have to say without rushing to a quick judgement.
Most teens feel lonely because they feel their parents don’t really know them. The walls in your relationship have been up long enough. Break them down and get to know your teen once again! By admitting your failures, asking forgiveness, really listening, and sharing your heart, you’ll be amazed at how restoration will happen in your relationship.