Listening to Teenagers

By Ken Fate

I recently started a book study with some parents.  We were discussing the book “How To Talk So Teens Will Listen And Listen So Teens Will Talk”, written by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

In this edition I will share some gleanings from Chapter 1 which addresses the issue of feelings.

Teenagers today have special challenges they are facing in this 21st century.  Most parents want our kids to talk to us so we know what’s going on in their world.  If we create an atmosphere of mutual respect where they can express their feelings, hopefully they will be more open to hearing ours as well.

We don’t realize it but with good intentions we often dismiss feelings, ridicule thoughts, criticize judgment and give unsolicited advice.  We don’t want our teenagers to be hurt, experience pain or suffer in any way.  Thus, we do a lot of things that we think will help.  There are responses that we can use that facilitate our teens to talk.

They are:

1.       When your teen talks, identify the thought and acknowledge the feeling with words or sounds.

Teen: “I can’t believe I didn’t get picked for the play.  I was much better than the kid they picked to play the part”.

Parent: “It sounds like you feel disappointed that the director did not see your talent”.

 2.       A second way to encourage sharing is to give in fantasy what we can’t in reality.

Teen: “Why do I always have to take out the garbage”?

Parent: “Wouldn’t it be nice if the garbage would take itself out”?

 3.       A third way includes accepting feelings as you redirect the behavior.

Teen: “I really want to go to that ball game but I promised grandpa that I would help him with his computer”.

Parent: “You are frustrated with missing out on the game because you know you already have a commitment”.

 Using these responses keep the conversation going and prevent the teen from shutting down or getting defensive.  This often happens when we lecture, criticize or just plain lose our cool.  The brain thinks best when it is not under stress.

In staying calm and reflecting their feelings and thoughts, we keep them thinking.  Problem solving can occur when they are thinking.  It’s when they shut down and get defensive, the problem solving stops.


More later.