Worship the Word Count

"How was your day?" "Fine." - Sound familiar? Read on...

By Momentous Institute | Nov 28, 2016

You may know this teenager. She may be living in your house even.

You ask, “How was your day?” and she says, “Fine.”

You ask, “Who did you sit with at lunch today?” and she says, “Sophie.”

You ask, “What did you and Sophie talk about?” and she says, “I am going to do my homework now.” and walks away.

Sound familiar?

Some teenagers maintain a close and connected relationship with their parents as they get older, but many don’t. Many teenagers start to drift away or even shut down in the presence of their parents. And while we know instinctively that questioning them isn’t going to magically get them to open up, we often feel at a loss on how to handle this. If we don’t at least ask questions, we’ll just be living in a silent house! What is a parent to do?

Much like children are choosing their words carefully - or rather, choosing no words at all - parents need to do the same. A child who holds her cards close to her chest is not going to be inspired to share intimate details about her life the more questions her parents ask. So instead, parents should think about every word they say, and whether it would lead to drawing the child out, or shutting her down. One example is to say, “I wonder...” instead of, “Why...?” (link)

If a teenager is already pre-disposed to turning internally or not opening up, she’s even less likely to do it when a moral issue is coming from her parents. When parents want to pass along an important value or teach a moral lesson, extra consideration should be taken to ensure that it’s not shutting the child out. One way to do this is to ask a question rather than make a statement. Instead of, “You need to finish your homework before you can go out with your friends”, a parent could try, “I wonder what would happen if you went out with your friends before your homework was finished. What do you think?”

Sometimes parents can get caught up in thinking that the word count from teenagers is the most important thing. She only said ten words today! It’s like she doesn’t even live here! But it’s important to remember that words aren’t the only thing that counts. Sometimes a song will come on the radio and a parent and teenager can sing along together. Or maybe after dinner, she’ll agree to walk the dog with her parents. Even if she doesn’t say a word the whole time, the experience still counts. Parents should never discount the value of uninterrupted, shared experiences.

When it all comes down to it, we have to accept that sometimes our teenagers - even the ones who used to be our chatty little kids - won’t want to talk. Rather than try to force it, we can be grateful for any small moments we do get. We can try our best to honor this time in their life, and not shut them out further with questions or conversation starters that come across as aggressive or accusatory. And, most importantly, we can hang in there. It won’t last forever!