A wise and heartbroken teen asked, “Who made communication so hard?”
She said this after having a difficult week attempting to advocate for herself. As parents of children over the age of 11, our most important role is to model effective and appropriate communication.
To do this well, we have to be quiet, be self-aware, accept responsibility when we fail, ask for forgiveness, and model what we want to see.
Talk less and listen more. Let’s be honest, children between the ages of 11 and 18 can be ridiculous. At times, they are overly impulsive, selfish, and talk without thinking. Most of this is because their brains and bodies are hijacked by hormones. De-spite their irrationality, it is vital for parents to listen without interrupting. Believe it or not, simply listening to their foolish complaints and outlandish opinions does not equate to agreeing with them. When we allow teens to talk without correction, they are often able to hear the childishness in their own words and amend their own thinking. This is something I see over and over again. It is interesting to see their facial expressions when they realize what they are saying! If you want your children to listen, you must be a listener. Model what you want to see.
Become fully self-aware. Are you full of fear? Do you treat everyone fairly? Do you always tell the truth? Are you always kind? The old saying, “behavior is caught not taught” is true. You have to model what you want to see. To do this, you have to be fully honest with yourself about your own behavior. Take time to truly reflect. You may want to ask your spouse or a close friend how you come across to others. Make sure you are modeling what you want to see.
Ask for forgiveness. Sadly, we all make huge mistakes with the people we love most. We yell when we should remain calm, we punish when we should give grace, we interrupt when we should be listening. You will fail during at least one interaction with your child. When you do, sincerely apologize. Use this interaction to demonstrate how you should have responded.
Model what you want to see. At this stage of development, children tend to withdraw emotionally from their parents. It is natural for them to begin subconsciously valuing the opinions/advice of friends and other adults. I know it is hard, but it is vital for parents to resist the urge to drown out these voices by becoming louder. You do not want your child to become an argumentative, angry, loud, critical, and frustrated person, so do not model that behavior. Instead, pray for your children’s friends to teach them to be effective communicators. Pray for your children to gain wisdom from every adult. Children learn valuable lessons from both good and bad examples. If possible, surround your child with adults who are modeling what you want to see.
Despite what the situation looks like, do not lose hope. Always remind yourself that you are not your teenage self. Your child will also mature past these years.