I just re-read this post from a couple years ago while searching for inspiration on my teenagers and the notes I took on that talk long ago were golden to me once again.

So grateful for talks I’ve been able to listen to that “keep on giving.”

The things I learned that spoke to me so much that I’m reposting what I wrote about them for any fellow mothers in the teenage trenches with me trying to figure out how in the world to communicate in an optimal manner with them.  (Other ponderings on teenager communication over here.)

Here you go:

Now that we’ve broken into the barrier of teenager-hood around here, I have to say I’ve felt it coming for a while: The moodiness, the sullen expressions, the completely irrational decisions…they’re inching in, little by little. The other day I caught a glimpse of teenager-hood in my eleven-year-old, and man alive, sometimes it seems that my eight-year-old is even closer than the others. Don’t get me wrong, I have good kids. I trust them. I adore them. But I want to keep that relationship strong to help weather the storms that will most undoubtedly come. I want to be on the offensive rather than the defensive. So the other day I pulled out some notes I took at Women’s Conference last year…the ones from a particular talk that I think about all the time. The speakers were Adriane Gill and John Bytheway, and they were good. They said some things that really affected me. In fact, after reading over them I’ve stopped myself a couple times in particular situations and taken a different, better route of action simply because I was thinking of those tips they gave. So I’m gonna share them. We could all use a little offense, right?

So here you go:

1) Do your homework. (I loved this one.) Don’t expect heartfelt, meaningful conversations if you don’t put the effort in. Be prepared with thoughtful, pertinent questions specific to that child’s needs. Know each of your child’s specific interests (and realize that yes, they most probably are different than yours gosh darn it!), and embrace them. Show them what matters to them matters to you. Work your day around them. You are the mother and that is your #1 job…plan ahead.

2) Be quick to show compassion and slow to judge. Nothing cuts off conversation more quickly than judgment. LISTEN or you will short-circuit future conversations. First try to understand, then to be understood. Being judgmental will stop your child from bringing worries or concerns to you in the future…they won’t want to “let you down.” Change doesn’t come through criticism. Use words like “wow,” “really,” and “how does that make you feel?” (Love that part too.) We need to evaluate what incentive we give our kids to really talk.

3) Demonstrate patience and respect…Ask before offering advice. Just talk, don’t have ulterior motives in what you say. Quality conversations don’t happen without listening. Maintain eye contact, don’t multitask, ask permission to share thoughts, don’t offer unsolicited help. Ask them for advice.

4) Find chances to point them toward Christ. Don’t put yourself between spirituality and your teenager. Help them have that relationship. When they have a tough choice or circumstance ask if they’ve prayed about it. Teach them to what source they should ultimately go for help.

5) Don’t avoid technology. It’s not going away.  It can be a tool or a weapon…we can make it a great tool. Take out time to monitor and teach your teenager appropriate ways to handle technology. (Cell phone, texting etiquette, etc.) {see our “technology contract” here}

In summary, parenting is practicing the art of “letting go.” Help kids become “self-directed.” Help them make good decisions…don’t make them for them. And most importantly, listen. John Bytheway used this quote I love: His thoughts were low, his words were few, and never formed to glisten– but he was a joy to all his friends, You should have heard him listen. Isn’t that good stuff? I know there are so many great teen parents out there…if you have any great pearls of wisdom please send them on over.

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  1. Shawni, this has nothing to do with this post… but! I turned on BYUtv in the morning this weekend and watched a syndicated talk your parents gave at BYU in 2000. It was a really great talk — and (I'm sure you know this) your parents seem like the best parents ever. So lucky to have them as examples!

  2. Wonderful words of wisdom. I whole-heartedly agree. I stay home with my 16, 14, 12, and 10 year old. We try to incorporate all that was shared. Keep sharing:)

  3. Shawni, I have have a 40 year old special needs daughter. We do not live together. Lately we've been at odds for one reason or another. This post has helped me tremendously. I forget sometimes that she is not 40 years old emotionally or mentally. I think some of these 'teenage' strategies may be useful to us. I'm always feeling like the 'bad mother' because I can't do what some other parents do. I need to approach it from a different angle. I'm going to try some of you techniques. We have nothing to lose and so much to gain from your thoughts and ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Ok, I *love* this about "don't have ulterior motives" and don't judge before you listen. SO SO important!! As a recent college student just coming out of high school teenager-hood, and learning how to talk to people myself (roommates…), this is so entirely true. Being patient and nonjudgmental before we offer advice – I think a lot of times as the recipient, we rarely even want real advice, we just want to know someone cares about us.

  5. Thank you for the reminder! I've been a long time follower, but I am not much of a commenter. I needed this, I broke most those rules last night with my 11 1/2 year old daughter. I've been praying about it all day! Thanks for being an answer to prayer:-)

  6. The point about judgement ending conversations is so true. My own mother has always been very judgemental and so was her mother and I still have so much trouble having a conversation with her because she has an opinion about everything and doesn't really show that she acknowledges that other people can have a different idea about things and that's ok. I love her to bits, but I usually go to my mother in law for help or advice with raising my own girls because she is far less judgemental and much more accepting. Enjoy your teenagers. My girls are only 3 and 1 so I have lots of time to practice!

  7. You were awake at 4:06 am. Yikes! You must be TIRED. Thanks for posting this. Talking to teenagers is tough. The other thing that I have to remind myself over and over again is that things change so fast for them. I'll stew over a comment that my teenager makes and two days later it's old news!

  8. Great advice. I have an almost 14 yr old, 12 and 8 My teen talks to me about everything right now and I am very careful in my responses. "How does that make you feel" is one of my standard responses. The other day she told me that none of her friends tell their mom everything except her. Guess what my response was? I then gave her a big hug and told her that I love our talks. I only hope they never end:) Great blog!

  9. im pregnant with my first child and I'm seriously already SUPER stressed about having teenagers. They are just so unpredictable. I realize it is absolutely insane to worry about it NOW, so i try not to but every once in awhile i just start worrying! i will keep these tips in mind for the very far away future 🙂

  10. I was shocked to experience teenage behavior in my 10 year old. I was not ready. I'm trying to find out how to help her stop talking back to us disrespectfully and being so sassy?

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