Welcome to Part 3 of the series 7 Ways to Connect with Your Teen! Today we’ll be discussing how we need to listen more than we talk. If you missed them, here is Part 1: Pray With Them and For Them and Part 2: Make Time for Them.
We had a saying in my early years of Youth Ministry: “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The best way to show a teen you care is to actually listen to them. If we desire to truly connect with our teens, we must work on our listening skills!
#3: LEARN TO LISTEN MORE THAN YOU TALK
Y’all, I do this much better as a small group leader than I do as a parent! With my own teens, I am tempted to control the conversation and make sure I get my point across. But the fastest way to ruin a connection with a teen is to talk before you listen, particularly if you are frustrated or disappointed. As James reminds us, we must “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)
Here are four things we can do to help us learn to connect with our teen by listening more than we talk.
1. Ask Questions—
Do your teens ever complain about how you constantly lecture them? Mine do. And unfortunately, they’re right!
The best way I have found to help a teen open up is to ask questions. When we ask questions, it communicates that what they think and feel is important to us. Instead of immediately telling them what we think (tempting, I know!) we can ask questions to help them process the situation on their own. Timing is everything here… we’ll talk about that later in this series!
One note of caution— don’t use questions to manipulate the conversation or trap your teen. They see right through these tactics and it will push them further away. If we truly want to connect with our teen, we need to ask questions out of genuine interest and pure intentions.
2. Listen without judgement—
In Student Ministry, we call this putting on our “game face.” In other words, don’t let your face betray you! If we want to be a safe space for our teens, they have to know they can talk to us about anything. Sometimes we are not going to like what they share, and we have to be prepared!
Experts say that up to 93% of communication is non-verbal, meaning our teens will pay a lot more attention to our facial expressions, sighs, tone of voice, and body language than to our actual words. Years ago, I made it a habit to pray before meeting with teens, asking God to help me listen without judgement and to react only with grace. I find myself automatically doing this now with my own teens, which is good, because it’s a lot harder to control my emotions with my own kids!
I am not saying that you shouldn’t enforce consequences or address wrong behavior. There is definitely a time for that! But for now, we are focusing on connecting, and if we want our kids to come to us with their hard stuff, we have to learn to FIRST listen without judgement.
3. Be trustworthy—
Teens notoriously have a hard time keeping secrets, and unfortunately, we are often no different. If your child shares something with you in confidence, make sure you honor their trust!
Overall I am good at this, but there have been a few times I have totally blown it. I made a comment at the family dinner table about someone one of my kids “liked” because I thought everyone already knew… turns out they didn’t. Or they didn’t before I blabbed it! That was several years ago, and that child still hesitates to tell me their secrets.
All because I wasn’t trustworthy…
4. Don’t make it about you—
I think this is really what good listening boils down to. As parents, it is so easy to make conversations about us— what we think, what we feel, what we want to say, or what point we want to make. Resist this urge! When I am talking to my teens, I constantly have a soundtrack in my head reminding me to “Listen well; it’s not about you!”
There will be plenty of time to share our opinion, but when our teen is talking, our job is simply to listen more than we talk.
Listen past their words to their heart, to their fears, to all the things they are not saying. What friend haven’t they mentioned lately? What point are they making so strongly it’s as if they are trying to convince themselves they actually believe it? We miss those things when we are too busy preparing a lecture in our head.
Listen More than You Talk…
If you truly want to connect with your teen, start by listening well. You’ll be amazed at how this one thing can completely transform your relationship! Not only that, it trains their heart to know their heavenly Father wants to listen to them, too. And if this has been a challenging area for you, be patient. Don’t expect your teen to immediately open up! It takes time to build trust. Keep showing up. It’s worth it!
You can click here for a FREE PRINTABLE, plus an Action Sheet to help you be intentional about connecting with your teen!
Stay tuned next week as we move on to #2: “Make Time for Them.” Here’s a sneak peak at the different topics we’ll be discussing in this series…
- Pray with them and for them
- Make time for them
- Learn to listen more than you speak
- Engage in the hard conversations
- Take advantage of their rhythms
- Be the first to say you’re sorry
- Hug them!
Here are some additional links on listening to your teens:
The Investment of Listening ( I wrote this one awhile back; hope you find it helpful!)
Students Desire to Communicate with Us by my friend, Becca Gunyon
Podcast: Are My Kids on Track: Emotional Milestone Vocabulary Raising Boys and Girls
If you know someone who might find this series helpful, will you please send them an email link or share this with them on social media? And if you want to talk with other moms about Biblical parenting and faith, come join the conversation in my private FB group!