Raising Teenagers – Good Listener Challenge

Parenting Skills Practice While Teens are Talking

Listening while teens are talking sometimes requires tons of patience. Parents can test their good listener parenting skills by taking this sixty-second challenge.

If parents want teens to talk, then parents must be willing to listen. Many parents raising teenagers say they wish teens would share more information with them but are parents ready to listen when teens talk?

Challenge for Parents

The good listener challenge sounds simple, but it isn’t easy. Can a parent listen to a teenager talk for a full sixty seconds without interrupting, saying “but . . .” or telling a teen what to do? Some parents may think they are good listeners. But while taking the sixty-second challenge, parents often learn the task is tougher than it sounds.

Parents only need a watch or clock nearby to take the sixty-second parenting skills challenge, but parents should try to time themselves without letting teens know. Seeing a parent glance at a watch or clock often may give a teen the idea that a parent is distracted or uninterested in the conversation.

Raising Teenagers Who Feel Heard

The book Positive Discipline for Teenagers (Three Rivers Press, 2000) includes an entire chapter on being a good listener. Authors Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott list six “barriers to listening”, common mistakes parents make when teens are talking. For example, barrier number two is “trying to talk teens out of their feeling or perceptions so they’ll have the ‘right’ perceptions and feelings.” Teenagers don’t feel heard when their feelings are discounted.

Parents don’t have to agree with teens in order to listen. Also, parents don’t have to offer advice or solutions unless asked. Although it may be tough for parents to do, Nelsen and Lott recommend that parents listen, try to understand, and take teens seriously.

Parenting Skills to Get Teens Talking

Body language is essential to being a good listener. Nelsen and Lott suggest that parents put down the newspaper (or turn off the TV) so that teens will “see” that parents are interested in listening. More parenting skills written in Positive Discipline for Teenagers include showing empathy and trying to truly understand a teenager’s point of view, even when parents don’t necessarily agree with it. Nelsen and Lott encourage parents to develop a true curiosity for understanding their teenager and work on being open to different ways of looking at things.

One Liner Listening Tips for Raising Teenagers

The chapter on listening in Positive Discipline for Teenagers is entitled “Does Your Teenager Hear Anything You Say?” Nelsen and Lott offer a variety of tips for listening while teens are talking. While taking the sixty-second challenge, parents are allowed to ask curiosity questions. A few one-liners suggestions in Positive Discipline for Teenagers are:

  • “How do you feel about that?”
  • “Could you give me an example of that?”
  • “Is there anything else?”

Raising teenagers who feel comfortable talking to mom or dad requires extra effort from parents. It can be extremely difficult for parents to remain silent and open-minded while teens are talking. Being a good listener isn’t always easy. Parents can start improving their parenting skills by taking the sixty-second challenge using the suggestions above to refrain from interrupting, giving advice, or lecturing.

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