Teenagers, frustrations and short answers

Posted on August 26, 2014 · Posted in Communication, Shaping Influences, Teenagers

You observe your teenager talking a mile-a-minute with friends. Then you think about the typical conversations that you have had with your son or daughter. Instead of a lively back and forth your attempts at conversation tend to collapse into strained monosyllables.:

    Did you have a good day? Sort of.
    How was your test? Okay.
    Do you have homework? Maybe.
    Do you have plans this weekend? Not sure.
    Is anything bothering you? No.
    Did you clean your room? Not yet.
    I thought maybe we could talk later on. Why.
    What did you think of the sermon? It was okay.
    Why are you so hard to talk to? Aw, mom.

You respond with a well-intended assessment of how things can be better, including appropriate Bible verses. In response your son says, Can I go now?

Such exchanges are disheartening. It seems like you are burden to your teenager. So what do you do – think of more creative monologues?

Let me suggest the path given by Proverbs 18:15 – become an aggressive and wise listener. 

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge,
    for the ears of the wise seek it out.


I can hear someone asking, “How to do you listen to someone who won’t even talk to you?” Good question. However, Proverbs is talking about listening that seeks knowledge and understanding. This kind of listening  is about investing the time to intelligently gather data that brings discernment. 


Make a time to sit down with your spouse and recall how conversations have changed in the last several years of your teenager’s life. What shaping influences have been at work? If your teenager seems suddenly distant, that did not happen in a moment. Most likely, the change occurred over time. When your child was eight, things seemed fine. Then schedules, work loads, job changes, or health issues may have caused you to overlook the transition to these one-way conversations.

This Proverb is urging you to do more than listen to words. It is a model for gathering knowledge. As you do this, a picture may well emerge of the challenges your teenager has faced that you have missed.  With this knowledge your questions will change from “how did school go” to something more substantive. Something like this:

“Was it hard for you when we moved when dad got that promotion a couple of years ago? As I look back on that time, Dad and I realized we weren’t very sensitive to what was going on with you. I am really sorry and ask your forgiveness. We want to really listen now to what you were feeling back then.”

Be patient. Seek God’s mercy and grace. Asking these questions is the first step to replacing monologues with dialogues. 


Jay Younts
Jay Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is the author of Everyday Talk and other materials on parenting. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for 30 years. Jay and his wife, Ruth, live in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and Ruth have five adult children.