Thursday, September 18, 2008

listening with your heart [part two]

Tuesday I wrote about listening to our children with our hearts (read here). Here is the continuation of my thoughts.

Working with two different youth groups over the last eight years, I probably heard this phrase more than any other; "My parents just don't understand." Heck, I'd hear it from my own kids. And I remember thinking it when I was a teenager. Part of it is normal for teenagers. But I think we, as parents, can work harder at trying to understand.

When my kids would say this to me, my answer most of the time was, "You're right. I probably don't. Please help me to understand." And most of the time, they would try.

I see communication as the answer to helping us parents understand our children and I don't think you can have too much of it. It needs to be a constant in the life of a family. It needs to be something that is practiced all the time. It needs to work both ways. Each party (parent and child) needs to both listen and be given the opportunity to speak, knowing they are being listened to and treated with respect.

It needs to be used in the everyday so when something more critical comes along, there will already be a precedent. You can't expect to be able to discuss subject "A" if you have no history of talking things out. The more a family communicates, the more each person knows about the others and how they feel about certain subjects. And when something totally out of the blue is dropped in your lap, it can be discussed openly and freely because this format has already been established.

You may be thinking, "Well of course I'm planning to communicate with my teenager." I don't doubt that is the plan for most parents. But something happens when a kids starts to feel their way into [pre]adolescence. They're trying to figure out who they are and their "voice" becomes scary to parents and adults. Parents aren't sure what's going on. They feel like they're losing control. They don't like what they hear and see. Many will try to make sure their child acts "appropriately," according to their own views and agenda. Some will simply find it easier to just tell the child, "Do this" and "Don't do that," without giving the child a voice in the matter. And others will simply withdraw completely as the task is too difficult. They simply give up.

Here's where it gets tricky. I whole-heartily believe that parents should be parents and impart values and discipline. Kids actually want this. But I think parents also need to loosen the reigns enough for the child to grow and learn for themselves who they are and how to make it in this world. And this is where communication makes it all work.

The child learns from his/her parents because the parents are constantly communicating their values, respect, love, and support. When the child sees this and hears this on a regular basis, they will know it in their heart that their parents care about them and wants what is best for them. They then will feel safe to communicate their fears, needs, and desires and will actually appreciate their parent's input and guidance.

This doesn't work perfectly all the time. I am not a perfect parent. You can ask my children - they didn't always feel safe to express their feelings and and often times, didn't. That's part of being a teenager; keeping things to themselves and sharing only with their peers. But if a parent sets out to understand their teenager, it can only help that relationship and ultimately, the transformation of the teenager as they emerge as the person they were meant to be.


MightyMom said...

I only hope a day will come when my kids will hold ANY thoughtful, meaningful conversation with me. instead of constant chatter that's mostly repetitive and mimicing. Right now we're trying to teach when to talk and when not to's a hard lesson. especially since mom and dad approach it differently.

Ken said...

Very well done and where the H.E double tooth picks were you when I needed you?

No as I said in the first half my daughter and I had a very good relationship, and it has grown even stronger over the years. but my hat goes off to you on this post! and I'm sure it would of helped me back in the day, as I'm sure it will help a lot who read it today.

Momma Roar said...

As a mom of lil' ones, I appreciate the time you've put into writing these posts.

Now, can you help me slow down time so the teenage years don't come on too quickly? ;-)

Penless Thoughts said...

I think it's so wonderful you are taking the time to impart your knowledge in this area to those who have not yet faced this challenge.

We made lots of mistakes but the one thing my kids always knew for sure, and with out a doubt, was that we loved them and we cared.

Melissa said...

It's a tricky line to walk. On one hand, we need to establish ourselves as parents. You're right - kids crave rules and regulations even though they would never admit it ;) Some parents go way to far in being an authority figure in their kids lives. They are demanding to the point of being demeaning. But sometimes you can go too far the other way. I've watched Mom's become their kids "best friend" and there are no rules what-so-ever because the mom want's her child's trust. It's a fine line between the two... and the middle ground isn't always the same for each kid!

VeRonda said...

Wow! Great post... for me, I feel that communication is key in any relationship. It just is.

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

I clicked over from Amber's blog because I was fascinated by your animated profile photo on the comments screen. Pretty cool! And now I am more grateful that I came over to your blog. This is such a relevant post for me. I have 2 teen-agers and although they're wonderful kids it is still really good to learn from more experienced Moms as to how to relate with them during this critical stage. Great advice. Thank you.

Short Stop said...

WOW. Such great, thoughtful stuff here. Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to write this out and sharing your wisdom.

I feel like, even now, I want a tight rein on the kids. Jason encourages me to let them experience failure of their own...even at this young age, so that we can talk about it and pick them up and let them see that we're here. HARD TO DO!