In my 20 years of experience working with teenagers, their No. 1 complaint about their parent has always remained the same: “They just don’t understand!”
By the time your children reach the teen years, they will have created multiple beliefs about the way you listen to them and “you just don’t understand!” is one of them.
At some point in their childhood, they had an interaction with you whereby they were desperately trying to figure out how to effectively communicate in a way that made them feel important and validate that they matter.
What they were looking for when they were finished with their communication with you was to BE acknowledged for having a voice — regardless if you agreed with them.
So, depending on your response (verbally, physically, emotionally) would have played a part in their experience of BEING heard.
Now, whether you heard them or not, really doesn’t matter as much. What really makes the difference is if you could cause and create the experience for them that they were.
If you were not able to cause that experience for them, most likely they would have created a limiting belief in that moment called, “You just don’t understand!”
Once that belief is created, each and every time you communicate with each other they are looking to validate that you don’t understand them rather than looking for evidence that you do.
As this process continues to happen over time, your teen will slowly be disencouraged and stop sharing their opinions, their dreams and their point of view with you.
How can I fix this?
One way to help people realize that they are important and that they matter is to allow them to BE heard. It takes a conscious, in the moment and fully aware presence to create a safe space for them to feel secure enough to share.
One conclusion that I have arrived to while working with teens for so long is that they are truly inspired by their parents, when their parents are willing to admit when they have made a mistake or start taking a pro-active roll while working on themselves to be more affective in their relationships.
The first tip and one of the hardest for most parents is to acknowledge that they are responsible for co-creating some of the self-limiting beliefs that their children may have created, that could be getting in the way of accessing their full potential.
If you are open, willing and able to see this new perspective shift, it could be the starting point of re-creating a powerful and extraordinarily new communication with your child.
The second tip is two sit down with your teen and own up to the part you may have played in the communication breakdown of the relationship, and declare a new commitment to work on it.
The third tip is to practice listening to people in your life, including your children from a neutral place. Allowing people to have their own thoughts, ideas and opinions without you having something to say about it.
In most cases, this learned behavior helps people feel safe enough to want to share with you more.
The fourth tip is to listen from a compassionate and sympathetic place, realizing that your children are still learning how to figure things out on their own; and that it is a natural process of discovering their own power.
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You don’t always have to correct them or tell them what you would do every time they share; sometimes they are sharing out loud just to hear themselves or to be heard. Believe that your children are competent enough to figure out their own answers.
The fifth tip is to practice the art of understanding. Understanding may not necessarily be about agreeing or disagreeing with someone, it could very easily be about developing the capacity to comprehend someone else’s point of view. As defined in the dictionary understanding is a disposition to appreciate or share the feelings and thoughts of others; sympathy.
Alex Urbina is one of the leading experts on Teen, Parent and Family Relationships. His vast experience in human potential and personal development has made him one of the premier Family Life Coaches in Personal Transformation and an international trainer. Alex’s experiential Life Leadership Trainings are being implemented in various schools, youth organizations and Transformational Centers in the country, helping empower people to discover their personal power and realize their full potential.
Alex is a resident of the Santa Clarita Valley and has a weekly radio show called “Life Leadership” brought to you by SCVi Charter School, on your Hometown Station AM1220 KHTS every Monday at 1pm, to continue to educate yourself on teen & family relationships.