Asking questions is a great way to learn and grow as a parent raising teenagers. Raising a teenager is difficult. Mark Twain gave good advice to parents who are raising teenagers.
“When a boy turns 13, put him in a barrel and feed him through a knot hole. When he turns 16 plug the hole.”
There are days when Twain’s method of raising teenagers is tempting. His point? Raising teenagers is a full-contact sport. Asking questions helps establish a critical dynamic with your children. It communicates that you value their input and have a genuine interest in their life.
Asking your child questions also helps you gain perspective on their young lives. More than anything, it opens the door to open and honest communication between parent and child. Let’s think. When is the last time you had a true conversation with your child? I’m not talking about the usual “Check-list” conversation where we go through a series of “Did you” questions that only require a groan, head nod, or eye roll. I’m talking about a conversation where you are seeking honest answers that values their answers.
Recent statistics show that parents only spend about 30 minutes a day communicating with their children. Communication being defined as face-to-face conversations that includes sharing and hearing, not the usual inquisitions.
The ever-expanding social media culture actually creates a deeper desire in teenagers for human interaction. God designed all of us to crave this type of interaction. Text messaging, Facebook/Twitter posting, while valuable to this culture, can never replace or fill the longing for knee-to-knee communication. Social media actually creates a great opportunity for parents. Combine this paradigm with the fact that teenagers value their parent’s opinion more than anyone on the planet and you have fertile ground for great conversations.
Bottom line: Your children value your time more than anything in their young lives. It is the best way to communicate your love for them. Asking questions and listening to their responses is a great way to spend some of that time. Here are some questions to get the ball rolling.
Seven Questions to ask your teenager in the next week:
1. How can I be a better parent to you?
Take a deep breath when asking this one! You may not like their answer but bite your tongue and listen to their input. This can also elicit immature responses of “Give me a new iPad.” Scratch beneath the surface of their answers. Asking for a new iPad might communicate more than you think.
2. Who are your friends and why are they your friends?
Careful with this one. This question often puts teenagers on the defensive. They often hear this as “Will I approve of your friends?” Knowing your teenagers friends helps parents learn a lot about their children. It communicates what they value in a friend and let’s us know who is influencing their lives. Avoid judgment but talk through why you might have concerns about some of their friends. Especially if they have a friend who worships Satan . . .
3. What do you think are some things I can do better?
Again, brace yourself for their responses. This might sting but can go far in helping you be a better parent. Avoid becoming defensive. A defensive posture kills honest communication.
4. When do you feel most proud?
This question communicates what they value.
5. What was the best thing that happened to you today? Why?
If they say, “Lunch,” or “When the last bell rang,” they might be communicating it was a tough day. Talk through that. They might just really like the Sloppy Joe’s the school serves.
6. What kind of career could you see yourself getting into after you graduate? Why?
Don’t turn into a courtroom atmosphere with leading questions like, “Wouldn’t you like to be a doctor?” Just ask and listen to their response. Be concerned if they say, “Professional wrestler,” but avoid falling out of your chair or driving into a ditch if you are asking these questions while driving.
7. What upsets you more than anything?
This question speaks volumes about what they value. You might be surprised to learn the things that upset them the most are the same things that upset you the most. A true connecting point. I recently talked to a parent who asked her teenage son this question. He is struggling with grades this year. She was floored to learn that the thing that upsets him the most was making bad grades. When she asked him “Why” he said, “Because I really want to make you proud.” This communicated to her that her teenage son believed she wasn’t proud of him because he was struggling with bad grades. This led to an hour-long conversation between mom and son where she communicated all the things in his life that made her very proud of him. That’s “Way Cool!” That conversation will stick with him for the rest of his life.
The absolute best way to communicate love to your teenager is your time. A great way to spend some of that time together is showing them that you value their thoughts. It will make a tremendous difference in your relationship and opens the door to things like trust, honesty, and deep spiritual matters.
Check out this GREAT website that helps parents communicate with their teens: Communicating With Your Children
I want your input! Drop me an email or comment below if you ask your teenagers some of these questions this week. I never share comments from parents without their consent.
- Parents as role models (followthenarrowroad.com)
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- The Danger of Not Talking to Your Children About Race (parenting.blogs.nytimes.com)