Real Issues, Real Teens!

This is our hot topic today on Moms Together.

When I interviewed hundreds of teens to write Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parent Needs to Know, I learned more as a mom than I ever did as a researcher. After the book was published, my teens (at that time) said, “Wow, mom. You’ve really grown!”

What they didn’t realize is that even though I worked with teens for several years, and was a mom of three teens, that listening to the honest heart of teens had completely changed the way I parented my own children.

You see, teens are honest. I asked many questions about faith, family, pressures, sex, relationships, and more. But one topic really triggered some amazing conversations. That was on the topic of communication.

I asked:

Does your conversation with your mom or dad ever go deeper than “How’s Your Day?”? What would you say to your mom or dad if they really listened?

And they spoke up. Out of this honest dialogue came 5 things teens wished their mom and dad knew about communication. Why they may not talk, or what they wish they could say if they did.

The first was: I wish my mom or dad would stick to the topic.

What does that mean?

One teen shared how when she messed up, the conversation turned to all of her failures. She felt as if she would never climb out of the pit of her past mistakes. “It may be that I didn’t fold something right, but that turned into a discussion of what a big failure I have always been, when I’ve done really well for a long time. I wish she would just remind me that she wants me to fold the towel in the correct way.”

Another teen said that if she could talk and her parent would truly listen, she would tell her that all of her talks, her love, her rules — those things that she had fought — made her feel safe. That it had been a shelter for her when peers tried to lead her in the wrong way. “But I can’t say that because it would lead to a discussion of “in my day” or a lecture of purity. I just want her to do her job, which she’s doing great, and talk to me and listen to what I have to say, too”.

I talked with a dad as I was writing this book. He told me that his daughter wasn’t talking to him. I asked why. He said that she came downstairs in a shirt that wasn’t as modest as he would have liked. He said (in his words), “I told her that she looked easy. Why would she dress like that if she wasn’t?”

I explained to dad that this daughter looked to her dad for a sense of self. What was the real issue? He wanted her to wear something else. But he failed to stick to the issue. He made it a personal affront. She wasn’t easy. She loved the Lord. But those words etched her heart. If her dad thought that, what did others think?

Sticking to the issue means that we clear away the past, we clear away accusations, we strip anything out of the conversation that doesn’t directly relate to the issue at hand. What is your goal? What do you want? What do you want her to hear? What do you want him to do differently? How can you address the real issue and yet confirm the heart of your teen?

Those are hard questions, but important ones.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss the remaining 4 items teens said they wished their parents knew:

  • They wish you wouldn’t use labels (because they live in a world of labels, and home should be¬†their safe place)
  • They wish you would encourage them in what they do right
  • They wish you would listen all the way to the end (so that you hear the real problem or issue)
  • They wish that fights weren’t always bad

See you tomorrow!