As parents we’re smart, so smart in fact that we don’t need to hear the whole question or conversation that’s playing out in front of us because we’ve been there, done that. Right? Using our infinite wisdom and experience to quickly and easily wield our ‘solution sword’ to cut through any and all drama or need. We’re kind of like super heroes, but the problem is that the only life (read: time) we’re saving is our own. Our teens should be getting our best when ultimately they’re getting our worst. By simply not taking time to hear and understand we’re telling our teens that they’re not important enough for our time and that communication is a one way street or ultimately doesn’t matter.
Let’s change it. Let’s listen, but not just listen with our ears, rather be active listeners. Let’s do some full sensory listening. Listening with our eyes, mind and spirit (discernment). Let’s give some feedback to make sure that we’re understanding what’s being said to us. This is relationship, trust building stuff. Crazy things can happen when you don’t fully listen, but instead just give quick answers. Maybe your teen is denied a destiny altering opportunity or you give permission for something that has negative effects. The seemingly insignificant moments are where life is happening. Don’t miss them, because you’re too busy.
Our teens want to be heard and understood. When we take the time to listen and truly understand the benefits can be wonderful. It establishes solid communication skills that our teens can take with them into their other relationships. Our communication is not only about saying yes or no, but about having the opportunity to confirm their natural leanings. Their values and experiences are shaping their responses to what’s going on in their lives. Many times what they know to be true is flying in the face of their culture. This can feel confusing and their trust in you can bring clarity and confirmation to what they already know is true. Our teens need to know that it’s ok to be guided by deeper meanings, by values and boundaries.
So here are 4 quick suggestions to get started being an active listener with your teen:
1. Be Present
Life is happening right now. The passive mind never wants to be where you are. It loves the past and the future. You can control your thoughts. So get control of where your mind is and bring it to the present conversation with your teen.
2. Every Action Is An Attempt To Have A Need Met
This should be your assumption every day. Regardless of how or what your teen is saying, choose to see that what they say and how they say it are attempts to have needs met. This brings real purpose to your conversations.
3. Slow down and listen
Determine what’s really being asked. The difference between listening and not listening is likely a matter of a few minutes in your overall day, but could give you the best Return On Investment you’ve ever had. If ‘now’ isn’t a good time, then set a time with your teen to talk so that you can be present. If you need time to think about your answer, then tell your teen that you need to think about it and give them a future time when they can expect an answer.
4. ‘No’ is more than a 2-letter word
With your teen it must be more than, ‘because I said so’. They want to have dialogue. They have a need to understand even if it’s ‘agree to disagree’ because timing or values are compromised. A great question to ask your teen is, ‘can you explain to me why you feel that way?’.
Being an active listener provides lots of great opportunities to have teachable moments with your teen. Don’t miss out!
What are some of your strategies for listening to your teen?