Preteens and teenagers make themselves heard in a variety of ways. It is only when you listen with your hearts and open your eyes do you really hear them.
Whether you think you are a good listener or not, there is always room for improvement. To listen with your heart, you must put away the analytical part of your brain – you know, the part of you that has a ready answer and wants to fix the problem, or even the opinion part of you that states what you think is the law. It really is a hard thing to do. In order to listen with your heart, you must be open to what your preteen or teenager is saying and feeling.
“Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf.” ~ Native American Indian Proverb
The Art of Comprehension
If you do not understand what your children are saying, ask for clarification. Sometimes it seems like our kids are talking in a completely different language. It is our job to try to reach deeper and figure out where they are coming from. We do not have to agree with it. However, we do have to try to appreciate and accept that this is how they are feeling at the moment.
“I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying.” ~ Charles C. Finn
Find the Clues in the Tone of Voice and the Behavior
Pay attention to the tone of their voice and the way they are acting. Their words may not make sense, so check out how they are saying it. Are they sad, angry, or scared? Do their words totally contradict the behavior in question? Is the behavior sending you a hidden message? Kids do things for reasons. If we dig a little deeper and take a good look at the behavior, it may give us clues to what is going on with our kids.
Remain Loving and Dodge Those Personal Attacks
Try not to get defensive if the teenager is personally attacking you. Look deeper at the words. Is there any truth in them? We all say things in our lives that we regret later. Preteens’ and teenagers’ hormones and emotions are chaotic. They are trying to find an identity. If the attack makes no sense, just let it go. Try to hear with your heart what the problem really is. They need to know that we are there for them and still love them.
“Silence is a source of great strength.” ~ Lao Tzu
Remain loving and stable at all times. I know this is asking a lot but if we resort to responding the same way they are, the problem only escalates. They need us to be adults. So look at your preteens or teenagers with love in your heart. Be open to whatever they are feeling and saying. Let them know you hear how they feel. This is a start and they will be grateful that someone hears them and sometimes that is all they need.
Ross, Julie. How to Hug a Porcupine. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008.