Listening to Teenagers

Do you know how to listen?  Can you really hear someone?  Do you even have enough empathy to care to listen?  These are the questions that divide men from monsters, women from serpents.

If you want to rock the world of teenagers, you need to learn to listen to them.

First you have to understand how we all communicate, and how we can stop that process from happening.    The main reason we do not have effective communication is that we really aren’t putting enough into the process.  Not caring, not listening, prejudging and being too busy for others makes you less than the human God created you to be.

A lot of people will approach a person with a complaint or who wants to be heard with the attitude of either (1) I need to put them in their place (authority), (2) I need to teach them a lesson (educational), or (3) I need to get rid of them (abusive).

Primary to these anti- communication techniques is self-centered and prideful  personal attitudes.  Check those ideas at the door if you want to build up your relationships with your teen at home.

Especially important to parents is the way they communicate with their children.  There seems to be a time when the kids get to a place in their development that they want independence, regardless of how much they still depend on their parents.    The parents also feel it is time for the kids to start becoming responsible and mature enough to be trusted.  The parents want s out of the overload of work in taking care of their kids; picking up after them, getting them to do chores and homework, buying them clothes and skateboards and Xbox.  The career adjustment period usually hits dads during this time period too.

So let us open up our hard heads and take in a hard message.  It’s not all about you and what you know and what you’ve experienced.    You have within you a thinking paradigm that has you as center of the world.  We all do.  Shift your attention outside of your subjective view to a more objective view.

In Steven Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you find an extremely clearly state example of how listening doesn’t work:

A father once told me, “I can’t understand my kid. He just won’t listen to me at all.”

“Let me restate what you just said,” I replied. “You don’t understand your son because he won’t listen to you?”

“That’s right,” he replied.

“Let me try again,” I said. “You don’t understand your son because he won’t listen to you?”

“That’s what I said,” he impatiently replied.

“I thought that to understand another person, you needed to listen to him,” I suggested.

“OH!” he said. There was a long pause. “Oh!” he said again, as the light began to dawn. “Oh, yeah! But I do understand him. I know what he’s going through. I went through the same thing myself. I guess what I don’t understand is why he won’t listen to me.”

As Covey explained, we want to be understood but we really don’t have that level of understanding of others to listen properly.  You see the problem is with us not them.

If we really want to get the kids to take on responsibility as the grow into teenagers then we need to raise them that their autonomy is linked directly to their behavior.  If they are responsible,  then they deserve as much freedom as they ask for – within agreed upon limits, of course.  But if we don’t hold them accountable for the things we agreed upon, then we are failing them.  See it is our acting responsible that teaches them how to be responsible.  If we tell them to be in bed by 9 and don’t enforce it with clearly expressed consequences, than we have failed to live up to our end of the order.

When it comes to conversation, if we don’t try to understand them, why should we even consider that they should listen to us?


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