The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge;
the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15
One of our readers left the following as part of a comment to the post, How Sin Works – Application to Teenagers:
“It is hard to dialogue and not monologue with a 13 year old who doesn’t respond. Any suggestion?”
This mom is not alone. Parents are frustrated by contrasts. Contrasts, such as when you observe your teenager talking a mile-a-minute with friends and yet, when you talk with him, his exuberance collapses 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.
After you finish with a well-intended assessment of how things can be better, including appropriate Bible verses, your son says, Can I go now?
Such exchanges are disheartening. After the time and energy spent in raising your child to the teenage years, with all the love you have in your heart for him, it seems unfair and confusing for your child to act as though your relationship with him is such a burden. 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. I can hear someone asking, “How to do you listen to someone who won’t even talk to you?” Good question. This verse is talking about listening that seeks for knowledge and understanding. This is not so much about listening to monosyllables as it is about considering the words that led to things as they are now. Parents, think carefully and pray earnestly that God will help you to listen. 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. This change is often obscured by busy schedules or challenging events in the lives of parents. When your child was eight, things seemed fine. Then increasingly busy schedules, work loads, job changes, or health issues caused you to overlook the transition to one-way conversations. Replay the conversations of the past few years. Follow the model of Ephesians 4:29 and think about how your children have received the words that you have spoken to them over these last few years.
During your struggles, your teenagers have also faced their struggles. They have begun to emerge as adults. Your teenager’s thoughts, hormones, abilities, bodies, even their voices are in the process of awkward change. What words—or perhaps lack of words —have you missed? As Tedd Tripp often encourages parents, this is not a time to beat yourself up if you discover that your speech and actions were insensitive to your teenager. It is all too easy to think of eight- to twelve-year-olds as just bigger versions of five-year-olds, except that now they can do more to help.
Life can change from monologues to dialogues again. But to get started, listen. Listen to those words that you missed the first time through. Think carefully about the events that have impacted your teenager. What influences have shaped your family these last several years? Give these things some thought. We’ll look at this more in the next post.