Parent-teen communication begins with setting the stage for real listening. But the stage needs the props removed–computer screen, mobile phone, headphones–so you can start the dialogue in a way that encourages real listening. And as a result, you will teach your teen conversational skills that respect you and others.
This is just one example of a Biblical lesson that Christian parenting can teach through online experiences (see https://www.christiantechkids.com/2016/02/11/using-your-teens-online-experience-as-a-bible-teacher/). Consider these scenarios:
(Teen, still looking at keyboard) But I shouldn’t have to mow the lawn… OR
(Continues typing) But I shouldn’t have to watch that documentary with everyone… OR
(With headphones on) But WHY do I have to do that, Mom? (Leaning back, vaguely watching his screen.)
Two commonalities exist in the above scenarios: They occur while your teen is engaged with technology, and they result in the beginning of an argument. But not the classical kind of argument in which there’s an exchange of ideas and support for those ideas. Rather, the whiny kind, the negative kind.
Parent-Teen Communication Without a Screen in Between
Don’t compete with a screen. Or with headphones that are meant to eliminate ambient noise–you, in this case. You must take the lead to avoid this interference, because your teen probably won’t–and will more likely see you as the interference. Help your teen learn how to listen and make more effective arguments by teaching them to first disengage from technology. Tap his shoulder (if he can’t hear you through his headphones). Say “Let’s talk a minute”or “I need you now.” After you’ve made clear the need to talk, offer him a few seconds to break away from the technical task in front of him. (Proverbs 15 reminds us “a patient man calms a quarrel”–so be patient!)
If you allow him to be online, it’s not fair to interrupt that at your every whim.
Help Your Teen Listen
If you allow him to be online, it’s not fair to interrupt that at your every whim. Most online activities involve a process. He can’t abruptly stop this process without error, aggravation, insult to an online team member, loss of one’s train of thought, or data loss. You can respect your teen by forewarning him of your need to discuss something and then allowing him a moment to ‘get into position’ for that.
Now disengaged from technology, he can better listen to what you have to say. And he’ll be able to reply without distraction. Instead of appearing to deign to give you his time, he may be more fully attentive, a sign of respect (which you are attempting to teach him, right?). “Pay…respect to whom respect is owed” (Romans 13). You are teaching him to love you through action, not just words.
Both of you now fully present, a polite, clear and logical “argument” can ensue. You have helped him listen under authority–a useful habit for his long-term good. And quality parent-teen communication may prevent unintentional disobedience resulting from misunderstanding.
So take control of your parent-teen communications. Insist your teen first be free from distraction. Only then can the full discussion–or argument–be most productive.
And when your teen questions why he should have to take out the garbage today, you can look deeply into his eyes and give your most cogent argument: Because I said so.
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