In a recent conversation with a friend, I realized that I'd personally heard his exact questions asked by parents over and over throughout the years...
"But what do I need to say to get through to him?"
"How can I reach him so that he realizes the consequences that this could have on him later in life?
"What do I say to make him care?"Most people think they have an answer for this. How about talking to the kids in their "lingo", try to have a close family friend of mentor talk to them instead of mom and dad, or explain to them the worst-case scenario to make them scared? Surely, these ways would work right?
The fault lies within the question itself when parents and family members ask: what can I say to them? (Keyword: say)
Without a crucial first step, we may never get to have influence on teenagers. We may talk and lecture until we're blue in the face, but it's high time we start listening to what's really going on inside the hearts and minds of our budding young generation.
Active Listening has proven to be the most effective way to begin a conversation surrounding the conflict at hand. Ordering, advising and sympathizing might be some of our knee-jerk reactions in responding to our teenagers. But let's face it, they don't like to be told what to do just as much as we don't. Asking more questions about the details of their problem only alludes to your segue in finding them the "right answer" for their given problem.
When others feel truly understood, they can begin to move towards a solution to meet their needs. Understanding teenagers on the deepest level can be done shockingly well through active listening. It is then that we can uncover what their own hidden needs are that are navigating their behaviors.
- They don't want to seem like a "loser" at school by wearing old clothes
- They are tired of not being "allowed" to make their own decisions
After which, teens might begin to re-steer the direction of their choices. In some cases after active listening has been done, a new, more trusting relationship is built. This trust sets the scene that can move you into an advisory/teaching position. But be careful, teaching and advising only gives the facts, not our opinions. Under these circumstances are we truly able to have a real and lasting influence on our teenagers.
- They are going through something heavy at home, and make drastic attempts to get attention at in other areas
What do you think? Let me know! Please share and comment below.
For more on Active Listening and to learn how to practice this skill effectively, please see this article: http://www.gordontraining.com/wp-content/uploads/ActiveListening_RogersFarson.pdf
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by: Selena Cruz George, Program Manager