Looking back on many conversations with my teenage son, I began to see how often he would tell me something about his day, and I would respond by telling him how I would handle it or feel about it.
Maybe I would ask one or two questions, but it was with the intent of seeing what advice I could give him. What I was teaching him was how to handle life from my perspective. What I should have been doing was helping him to develop his thinking so he could handle life from his perspective. Certainly he needed guidance and help, but I was giving that to him everyday as he watched how I handled life and responded to things. What I was teaching him in these times was how to tell others what to do rather than how to work through a challenge and use his own thinking.
Of course our teens need input and advice, but I wasn't giving him the opportunity to ask for it— a lesson for them to learn as well. If I had asked questions like "Have you decided how you are going to handle this situation?" or "What about that made you angry?" or "Why do you think that will work?"—I could have learned more about his thinking and reasoning. I could have asked questions to prompt his thinking and given him the opportunity to ask for my thoughts. He wasn't very receptive to my unsolicited input. If he had asked for it, then maybe he would have wanted to hear what I said.
I began to see how the scripture "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19) applied to parenting. I was far too quick to become angry at his actions and was not quick to listen and learn what he was thinking. I was far too quick to give him my thinking and to tell him what I would do. I didn't realize then that the message I was sending to him was that he wasn't competent enough to think these things through. I needed to listen, ask questions, and then build him up on how well he could think things through and come up with a solution.
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You may ask "But what if he didn't come up with the right or best solution?" Then he would have learned a good lesson, and I could have been there to support him as he worked through that. I could have asked what he learned and encouraged him as he determined how to proceed. Bottom line, I would have been encouraging his thinking processes and teaching him how to use the very intelligent brain God gave him. He, himself, said one of his greatest challenges was thinking how good something sounded, but then he wouldn't consider how wise or smart the idea was before acting. I can't help but think that I contributed to that challenge.
As I began to apply these principles to our conversations, I found that we would have far fewer arguments, and I felt a lot less stress. Why? Because this helped me give the responsibility for his actions to him, rather than take it on myself. I still have a lot of growing to do, but now that he is a young adult, our relationship is much better.
What if you asked more questions and listened with a desire to encourage your teens thinking, rather than listening with the intent of telling them what you would do? You may disagree with most, if not all, of what they say; however, you will learn far more about them than you would if you were to share why you think they are wrong or how they should think differently. Could you be helping your teen learn how to think through problems and the types of questions to ask themselves? If you, as a parent, listen more and talk less, you may be surprised to see your teen asking for your input and wanting to hear what you have to say.