Every parent of a teenager wants to build a strong line of communication with his or her teen. But sadly, the opposite is most often true. I’d like to share with you some simple tips to improve your communications with your teen.
When a teenager’s behavior is way out of line, when he or she crosses established boundaries and offends us and makes us angry, it is easy to think he or she doesn’t deserve grace. But that may be exactly the right time to give it.
It’s been said that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. And teens? Well, they seem to be from a completely different universe! Sure, teenagers look human, but the way they speak, the way they dress, and the things they value all seem to point to an origin in a galaxy far, far away.
I have never heard a mom publicly announce, “I want my daughter to be perfect,” and I have never heard a dad audibly declare, “I want to force my authority on my son.” And, I’ve never heard parents say, “We want to be judgmental parents.” For I’ve heard hundreds of daughters say, “My mom wants me to be perfect.” And I’ve heard an equal number of sons say, “My dad rules our home with an iron fist.” And I’ve heard thousands of kids say, “My parents are the most judgmental people I know.” Somewhere between our intent and our execution, those can be the very desires we communicate to our kids.
Trust is a valuable and fragile commodity. In the economy of family relationships, trust is both given and received as parents and teens gingerly pass it back and forth. When these trust transactions are handled properly, relationships grow and thrive. But Mom and Dad—don’t hold on to that commodity too tightly, because your teenage son or daughter will break it. It’s really not a question of “if,” it’s a question of “when.” At some point, you’ll place your trust in the hands of your teenage child, and they’ll drop it and shatter it into pieces.
For Lucas, it started in high school. “I guess I have a face and personality that invites bullies,” he told me. Kids in class would ridicule Lucas’ clothes, mock his behavior, laugh at where he came from, and deride him constantly. But in teen culture, you can’t show weakness. Teens know that if you let on to bullies that they’re affecting you, you’re giving them an open invitation to continue the abuse. So Lucas put on his impervious face each day, and endured the barrage of mistreatment at school. But that kind of ill-treatment wears you down. “When I would finally come home,” explained this young man, “the littlest thing would set me off. I mean, my mom would ask me to take out the trash and I could feel the anger building. At first I wouldn’t talk, but that made my mom mad, so eventually all this anger would just, kinda, explode. I would yell, throw things, break things. My mom didn’t know what to do.”
Don’t judge; but I’m a fan of the National Treasure movies. Remember those films? They starred Nicholas Cage as Benjamin Gates, a historian and modern fortune hunter who believed that America’s national monuments and historical artifacts contained a secret treasure map from the founding fathers. While other researchers and academics laughed at his conspiracy theories, Benjamin Gates eventually proved that underneath the common symbols and landmarks we see in America was a trail of messages pointing to new discoveries.