Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to Get Teenagers to Talk

My friend Peggy, from Washington state, says that when their boys were young teens "They had a habit of bolting down food and then saying, 'C'nibescuzed?'  My husband would always reply,  'No.  You can sit here and entertain us with bright conversation.'"
Is that a problem in your house? I think it is in most homes with teens. We've had teenagers for the last thirteen years and have three more years to go, so we've learned a few things about getting teens to talk. Here are some of the things we have done that have worked.

1. Listen without Criticism
Okay, so we haven't done a great job on this, but we are [still] learning. If you get them to express their thoughts, don't jump in and refute or tear down. It's amazing how often they perceive what we say as criticism. And who wants to talk to someone who just picks apart their every opinion?

2. Be a Student of Your Teen's Interests
Because my husband is interested in airplanes and airlines, our sons developed the same interest. Whenever I flew somewhere alone one of them was sure to ask, "What kind of plane did you fly on?" My answer: "Um, two wings and enough engines to get us there." You can be sure that didn't win points.

Then I discovered that that safety card they always tell you to look at tells you what kind of plane you are on. So I made sure to memorize that and to take a minute to look around at the seat configuration--was it two on the left, three on the right, or a wide-body with two-four-two? 

I also listened more closely when the news had something about airplanes--a crash, a new plane unveiled, an airline merger. Anything thing that they would be interested in. That way I had something to ask them about. "Did you see the unveiling of the 787? What's better about it?" 

You can do the same kind of investigation for whatever it is that interests your teen. 

3. Read What They Read
You know that novel they have been complaining about having to read for the last two weeks? Have you ever read it? Check it out of the library and read it. Then ask questions about the book. (You might sneak a peak at Spark Notes and get some ideas.) Don't be their teacher, but if you are genuinely interested in what they think about the book, they will probably talk. Check out what they are reading just for fun, too.

4. Invite Their Friends for Meals
When kids go to other people's houses they rise to the occasion in the politeness area. You can ask the guest a few questions about what they are doing, what's going on at school, the novel they are reading, and they'll answer even if your teen won't. This will give you information about your teen.

But another way to get your kids to talk is to listen to them talk to their friends. (Driving a carload of kids somewhere is a great place to do this!) You learn a lot, especially if you don't butt in with your opinion. This information enables you to ask questions that might spark a conversation. They complained about a bad call by the ref at last week's game. Tomorrow night you might ask, "What's everyone saying about that ref call Friday night that lost the game?" and possibly follow up with, "What does it take to be a good ref?"

Questions are good, but don't become the inquisition either. Ask open ended questions where they can express their opinions and cultivate an environment where they know they are free to express what they really think.

Peggy's sons are now grown men who come for dinner every Friday night. Peggy encourages us, "Something must have worked because now, many years later, we enjoy their bright conversation."

For more ideas on this: check out another post with thoughts from other parents about how to talk to your teens, and deal with the information you get, here.


  1. Great ideas!

    I'm a new mom of an adopted sibling group, and we need all the help we can get. :)

    Blessings to you!

    1. Wow, Daphne! That's a big task you've taken on, but God will give help. Do not grow weary in well doing for in due time we will reap if we do not lose heart! (I need to remind myself of that often!)



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