Written by Guest Writer, Hale Akamine, Ph.D
Dr. Hale Akamine is a clinical psychologist and the executive director of the Family Ministries Center, Inc.
"Teens don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
So said President Teddy Roosevelt. Ok, he actually said “People” instead of “Teens”, either way it’s still applicable. How teens experience their parents’ caring can make all the difference in reducing ‘friction’ so they don’t overly struggle to make Godly decisions. How parents express their caring when confronting their teens after they pull a really dumb move, can more likely generate heartfelt remorse on the part of the teen. For teens, it is how conflicts with their parents are handled that signals to them, rightfully or not, how much they believe they can trust and share their hurts.
Psychosocial developmental task is a fancy phrase psychologists use to describe the overall thinking-feeling-behaving-relating objectives during certain stages of life (e.g., infancy, toddlerhood, pre-adolescence, etc.). During the teenage stage, while the adult plumbing is fully ready-to-go, the thought-processing, emotional self-control, and appropriate behavior still need to mature. Wise parents intuitively know that how they handle their teens’ conflicts, poor choices and emotional outbursts (unfortunately, these often occur concurrently) becomes the foundation of not only healthy relationships with them but also the foundation of helping their teens develop Godly decision-making and avoid impulsively poor ones.
When parents first affirm their teens’ budding mature thinking and self-control (in emotions and actions) before suggesting Godlier solutions, they increase the likelihood that their teens will seriously consider doing it His way.
Here are some caring, mature, God-honoring steps parents can take when conflicts with their teens occur. As you will see, parents do need to at least act more mature than their teens.
1 - Whatever your teens shares, whether in rants, excuses, half-truths, etc., hear them out completely. Don’t say anything until they’re done. Listen softly. That means don’t construct responses in your head while they’re talking.
2 - Even after they seem to have fully shared, ask them if they have anything else to share.
3 - When they’re done, validate their feelings (validating is not agreeing). e.g., “Wow, you’re really upset about . . . .” before moving on to step 4.
4* - Kindly ask for permission to share your thoughts. e.g. “Is it ok to share with you what I think?” *Shh, this is a secret step used by super wise parents. It conveys that you’re affirming their value as a person inherently worthy of respect, making it easier to hear what you’ll say.
5 – Now you (more than likely also your teens) will be ready for you to exercise your parental authority, be it a corrective action or a (verbal or physical) hug, or maybe both.