There is a vast difference between listening and agreeing. It’s impossible to always agree with your teenager, but you can always listen.
Yesterday, I was in a crowded mall. There were hundreds of people milling around, and off to the side my eye caught an amazing parent of a teenager.
In the 15 seconds it took me to slowly walk by I saw a teenage girl quietly crying with mascara running down her face. Six inches from her was her mother. Neither one of them cared that they were in a crowded mall. It was obvious the two of them had worked hard on their relationship, and in this crisis moment it was paying off.
What struck me, was that this amazing mother wasn’t saying anything. She was actively listening to her daughter. In the craziness of a busy mall it was like they were the only two people in the room.
Think about how hard that is to do.
The whole time I walked by this Mother and Daughter I resisted the temptation to go up to them and give them a high five. That is how you do it.
No one is perfect, so I am sure when I rounded the corner they started yelling at each other. But for that one moment in time they were connected, and that mom found a way to connect with her daughter’s pain through listening.
Here are 4 ways that you can practice listening to your teenager today:
1. Don’t talk- I know many of you are saying, “Thank you Captain Obvious”, but that is much easier said than done. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. I promise you that will revolutionize your relationship with your teenager.
2. Separate listening and agreeing- Does your teenager feel free to share an opinion with you that they know you won’t agree with? You don’t have to agree with your teenager to listen to them, but you do have to listen to them if ever have any hope of connecting with their heart. How will they be able to test their opinion and grow to be an adult if they get cut off and lectured the moment they say something their parent doesn’t like?
3. Repeat to them what they said- One of the overlooked characteristics of communication is clarification. Clarify with your teenager what they said by repeating it to them in your own words and ask them, “Did I get that right?” This will insure that you are crystal clear on their opinion before you form your response. Too often we are guilty of preparing our response in our heads before our teenager is finished talking.
4. Respond more with questions and less with lectures- Your teenager is learning how to process information and they are forming their own beliefs. The best way to help them form beliefs is to become a Ninja at asking questions. One really great question to your teenager will always trump a long lecture.
So I have a PARENTZILLA CHALLENGE today. The next time your teenager is in the mood to talk or the next time you find yourself at the genesis of an argument, stop and listen. Practice these 4 tips and let me know how it goes.
We love being your PARENTING PARTNER!! Have a great day.