The first time Amy and I took our daughter Bailey to our favorite vacation spot, she hated it. The sand bothered her feet, and the water was big, loud, and scary. On our second trip to the beach with Bailey, she finally got up the courage to stand at the water’s edge…in her shoes. After a few days of wearing shoes while standing in the water, she wanted her shoes off. By week’s end, she was running like crazy on the beach and having a blast.
Over the next few years, she became more and more confident in and around the water. It’s easy to see the progression of Bailey’s beach experiences. From the time she wouldn’t let go of my hand to the times she fought me tolet go of my hand, we’ve come a long way from her saying “The sand hurts my toes” to “Daddy, I’m going to swim out to the sandbar alone!”
Aren’t our relationships with our kids similar to this? As they transition from children to young adults, our kids, in their God-given pursuit of independence, learn to wade more and more deeply into life’s waters. Right now you may be may be in that season where your son or daughter believes he or she no longer needs you. Or worse…it may seem your child doesn’t even want you around…except for food or money or course.
But you know otherwise. Your child definitely still needs you. The challenge is to find out what method of communication will be most effective.
That’s the topic of this weeks episode of Family Strong. Here are my notes from Episode 003: 15 Strategies to Great Communication With My Kids: Part 2
Have you ever had any of the following thoughts?
~ My daughter just won’t listen to me. I don’t know what’s going on in his life.
~ I don’t want to be a nag. I’d better just lay off and keep quiet for a while.
~ If I talk to her about how she dresses, she’ll think I’m old fashioned and uncool.
~ I’ve tried to talk to him before about the music he listens to, but I can’t get through to him.
We think thoughts similar to these and wonder why it’s so hard to find solutions. Talking—and listening—to your kids – – IT’S HARD WORK!
Ask yourself questions such as these:
~ If conversations in the past have ended poorly, what might I modify about my approach?
~ Is there a specific topic I’ve been avoiding that I need to address with my teen?
~ Has God put something on my heart to discuss with my teen but I have not done it? If so, how will I accomplish this? When? Where?
~ If I want to say something to my teen, what is my interest in doing so? What’s the goal?
Before I pick up where we left off at the end of Part 1, let’s talk “Surrender” for a moment.
God has called you to be a parent who is ready and willing to communicate His truths to your child.
At the same time, Satan fights to convince you that you are neither worthy nor capable of this calling. You need to know this reality. And, a key to winning this battle: Surrender!
I had lunch with a close friend recently who said, “My daughter and I hardly communicate anymore. We used to be so close. Once she started middle school, it feels like she has pulled away more and more. After a while, I kind of feel like I should give up. I guess it’s true that once they get older, they no longer need us like they once did.”
On some level, most parents can probably identify with this dad. As our kids exercise their independence, it can feel as if they no longer need us. But don’t let Satan, the culture, or your child convince you of this. Your son or daughter needs you – period!
Psalm 37:7 is a great reminder to “wait and trust the Lord” (ncv). I realize that applying such a verse is easier said than done. If you are having a difficult time communicating with a child, take your communication concerns to God. Here’s a great prayer of surrender. I love this prayer so much, I’ve included it in my upcoming new book for parents, Raising Successful Teens, which hits stores in September. Here’s the prayer:
I know that my situation with my child is no surprise to You. I also know that You have created me to be the parent of _________. Right now I surrender our situation to You. I can’t do it without Your strength, so I’m asking You to lead me as I strive to parent in a way that brings You glory.
Your situation is no surprise to God. He wants you to know that no matter how difficult or discouraging it is for you, He plans to use you to speak truth into the life of your son or daughter.
Perhaps the lines of communication between you and your kids areopen and you’re doing fine. But don’t forget that Satan wants nothing more than to disrupt your relationship with them. If this is the case for you, I suggest this prayer of surrender:
Thank You for giving _________to me. I need Your guidance every step of the way. I want to surrender our relationship to You. I know that Satan wants to destroy our relationship, so I pray for Your protection. Teach me to be a parent who honors You as I lead my child.
Wherever you are in your relationship with your kids, you must continue to surrender the relationship to God, asking Him to lead you.
Okay, so in Part 1 of 15 Strategies to Great Communication With My Kids, I detailed the first 5 strategies. Again, if you haven’t listened to Family Strong Episode 2, make sure to listen to the first 5 strategies to great communication.
I won’t detail them again in this episode. But, I will quickly list them for you. And, then I want to equip you with the next five strategies. They are so good!
Okay, for a quick recap, the first 5 strategies:
1. Schedule your kids into your day.
2. Start with talking about the little things.
3. Choose a relaxed environment for conversation.
4. Be prepared for anything. Your kids need to see you as approachable & un-shockable.
5. Ask questions.
Okay, those are the first 5 strategies I hit in Episode 2. Here is strategy #6 to great communication with your kids:
Strategy 6. Shoot Straight
Never shy away from telling the truth. Never. If you and your son or daughter are having a tough go with communicating, call it what it is – – let her or him know that you KNOW this is tough. Admit that the two of you are having a tough time. Tell themthat you know your relationship is changing and you want to be respectful of that. At the same time, convey that you are standing at the water’s edge – remember that story I told about Bailey and I on the beach – allowing them to venture farther toward the deep end. Remind them that thoughyou aren’t perfect, you are the parent God chose for your son or daughter. Make it known that you want to do the right thing, always.
Shoot straight. Honesty always pays off. Maybe not in the way you had hoped or at the time you desired, but shooting straight with your kids about life, struggles, regrets, and even communication challenges you two are having can be a very powerful catalyst to success in your relationship.
Strategy 7. Get Ahead Of The Heat
One mother of a senior told me about a time she had to have a potentially heated conversation with her daughter. She said, “Jeffrey I knew before it happened that this conversation we were about to have just might be explosive. I knew my daughter was most likely going to get hot & heated when I told her what I needed to say.”
So…and this is really funny. She explained to me how, oh yea…you need to know this – it was in the middle of the summer – – before having the conversation, this mother dressed like it was 2 degrees outside! Her North Face coat, gloves, a scar and even a beanie…she wore it all!
Get it – she knew this might be a “heated” conversation, so she wanted to get ahead of the potential awkward and she said her daughter laughed through the entire conversation.
She told me that her daughter did not like everything that mom had to tell her. However, moms approach to the conversation lighted the “heat” of the conversation. She even said her daughter posted an Instagram of her with her mom dressed like she was headed to the Rockies.
I love this idea! As I say often, when it comes to parenting: whatever it takes is whatever it takes.
Strategy 8. Take It On The Run If Needed
Sometimes even an important conversation has to take place on the fly. Take advantage of opportunities even if they are brief, such as at breakfast, during the ride home after school, or just before bedtime. This one’s really short, but it’s really important.
Strategy 9. Know “When” Is When
You probably have noticed times when your kids are more open to talking. I hinted at this with strategy #1 in Family Strong Episode 2. If your son or daughter is not a morning person, look for a time slot at night. However, if they are pretty much wiped out by nine o’clock each night, find time at breakfast or set up a lunch appointment. Find moments in each day when they are most apt to talk. Get these times on your mental calendar and live by them. They could be the most valuable minutes of your day!
To help with knowing “when” is the right “when” to talk, there are times when the right “question” to ask can fuel a conversation and getting it going in a healthy direction.
I’ve got a FREE GIFT for you to help get conversations flowing in your home. The free gift is: THE VERY-BEST-OUT-OF-THIS WORLD QUESTIONS TO KICK-START CONVERSATIONS WITH MY KIDS.
To get your copy of THE VERY-BEST-OUT-OF-THIS WORLD QUESTIONS TO KICK-START CONVERSATIONS WITH MY KIDS, just text the word:
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Strategy 10. Give Advance Notice
I have heard from so many parents who utilize strategy #10!
If you need to have a serious conversation, sometimes it can be beneficial to give everyone a heads-up – to tell them ahead of time for instance, “Hey, tomorrow night is family conversation night.”
This way, you all can prepare everyone for what is to come.
Plan a meeting time and place. Have some fun in advance. Send a text or photo suggesting a time and place to meet. If you’re Snapchat savvy, consider taking a selfie of your dog and adding a caption such as “Scruffy mentioned that you and I should go for a burger and bring one back for him.”
Alright, we have covered 10 strategies to great communication with my kids. When I started compiling this list, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep this list to 10, even though 10 sounds clean and sexy. So, I’ve got 5 more for you.
Strategy 11. Walk & Talk
Some of the best conversations Amy and I have with our daughters take place during evening walks in our neighborhood. When you have something important to discuss, success often depends on a relaxed setting. One mom told me her son loves music, so she found that turning on something he enjoys is a great way to get him talking about his day, his dating life, and more.
When is your teen most relaxed? While on a walk, watching a ball game, playing video games, or spending a day on the boat with you? Helping create an environment that is comfortable, relaxing, and fun for your child will promote openness and a sense of security.
Strategy 12. Be Prepared For Anything
This one is so important, I’m saying it again. This is strategy #4 from last week Family Strong episode. But, I’m telling you – – it’s important enough for me to say it again! Generation Z students have shared with me things I’d never have imagined would come out of their mouths.
I’m often asked: “Why do people tell you some of the most intimate and personal stories about their lives?” Well, I think it has something to do with the fact that they see me as trustworthy. I’m safe.
Are you trustworthy with your kids? Do they see you as a “safe” place with which they can say anything? If you aren’t sure or even worse, if you know the answer is “no,” here are two things you can do:
1. Ask yourself, “What about me needs changing so that my kids see me as approachable and un-shockable?”
2. Ask your kids, “What about me needs changing so that you see me as approachable and un-shockable?”
Asking such a question to your kids, may require some thick skin on your part! But, it’s a question worth asking – I promise! And…know this…when you DO make yourself available and your kids begin to see you as a person worthy of their trust, you might be surprised at how much they start to share.
Strategy 13. Put Down The Device
The leading complaint I hear from students as it relates to parents’ lack of attention has to do with cell phones. Teens say something like “My mom is always on Facebook. That’s all she does!” Or “My dad never puts his phone down. I wish he gave me as much attention as he does Candy Crush.” Think about the amount of time you are on your phone. What message are you sending to your family, particularly your kids? I try hard to put away my phone when I pick my girls up from school. I want them to know that when they get in the car, nothing is more important to me than talking to them and seeing how their day went.
Strategy 14. Write Notes
15 years ago I was officially ordained into ministry as a pastor. My dad couldn’t be there that night. Listen to what he wrote to me inside the Bible he and mom gave me when I was ordained:
“Son, your mother and I are very proud of you. You have always made us proud and we are so thankful to be your parents. Thank you for all you do for the Kingdom. I love you very much. – Dad”
My dad is a father of few words. In just a few sentences, he said so much to me that, 15 years later, still speaks to me in a very power way.
Communication is more than just oral. Written communication can allow you the opportunity to express your heart, concerns, and convictions more clearly and with less inhibition. If you have not had a long, deep conversation with your kid recently, a personal note from you might be exactly what is needed. A heartfelt note can pave the way for great face-to-face conversations down the line.
Strategy 15. Avoid Avoidance
If you choose not to talk to a child about a particularly difficult topic, you should realize you are STILL sending a message. Topics such as sex, masturbation, suicide, and divorce are just a few examples of topics often treated as taboo. If you ignore these or other topics, assuming they will just figure it out on their own, trouble could be right around the corner.
Several years ago I counseled Michael, a teenage boy contemplating suicide. His desire to end his life was the product of an ongoing struggle with porn that had begun years earlier. He shared that his father, a pastor, would not discuss the matter. His dad’s silence left him feeling alone, confused, dirty, and worthless.
Many Generation Z students are hungry for help and guidance. Again, discussing such matters may be uncomfortable for you. But failing to do so could be much more harmful because, AND HEAR THIS CLEARLY:
Culture often fills in where you fail.
No matter how inadequate, underprepared, uncomfortable, or uninvolved you may feel, remember that you are the most influential person in your child’s life. If you choose not to communicate, they will probably search elsewhere for answers.
All right, we did it! We covered 15 strategies to great communication with my kids!
Wow! There’s a lot of content in these 2 episodes.
Let me also remind you, kids can ask questions that leave us perplexed. If uncomfortable topics come in conversation, it’s okay to pause and consider your response. Take the matter to God; discuss the topic with a spouse, friend, or pastor; and then revisitit with your teen.
Being a connected parent doesn’t mean you always have all the right answers and advice.
Tell your kids you need time to consider the topic. Settle on a time when the two of you will continue the conversation. Then stick to your word and approach the subject again after you have considered it thoroughly.
Lastly, it may appear to you that the last thing your son or daughter wants is a conversation with you. You may have tried for years to connect. You might feel that you have already implemented many of the ideas in these 2 episodes, only to hear silence.
Keep trying. Continue to develop your strategy and surrender it to God. No matter how difficult the moment is, it is your moment. God has made you for this moment, and He is with you every step of the way. Keep talking!
Thanks for listening. Now, the real conversation begins in your home. So keep talking and remember, strong families can overcome anything together.
Go be the parent you were made to be – the parent your kids are counting on you to be.
And remember: The key to remaining family strong – – prayer!
The family that prays together stays together.
I’m Jeffrey Dean and I’ll be right here next week – for the family.
The most important part of communication is not talking. It is listening.
I regularly hear from teens who say that Mom and Dad seldom “listen to what I am really trying to say.” I realize some teens use this as an excuse when trying to win a skirmish with Mom and Dad. But sending a clear message to your teen that you are listening, even when you may not agree with the message he or she is sending, could greatly benefit the outcome of the conversation and your relationship.
7. Show that you are paying attention.
A teen named Jessica recently e-mailed me.
I know my mom loves me. But I don’t think she knows how to show it. At least not like she used to. I know she’s busy and I appreciate all she does to take care of my brothers and me. But sometimes I just want to talk about me, my life … my stuff. She’s so concerned about her hair, her clothes, and talking on the phone to Stacey (her best friend). Sometimes I wonder who the adult in the relationship really is.
When your teen talks to you, even about what seems trivial, show your full attention. One mom told me how she picks her teen up from school each day. She always turns the phone off so that nothing disrupts their talks. The ride home has proved to be a time for deep conversations.
8. Hit Pause when necessary.
A nine-year-old boy, attending a wedding with his mom, asked, “Why is the bride wearing white?”
His mom replied, “The bride is in white because she’s happy and this is the happiest day of her life.”
The boy thought for a moment and then said, “Well, then, why is the groom wearing black?”
Kids can ask questions that leave us perplexed at best. If uncomfortable topics come up in the conversation, it’s okay to hit Pause and take some time to consider your response. Take the matter to prayer, discuss the topic with a spouse, friend, or pastor, and then revisit it with your teen at a later date.
Being a connected parent doesn’t mean that you always have all the right answers and advice at a moment’s notice. Be honest with your teen by communicating that you need adequate time to consider the topic. Give your teen a time frame within which the two of you will reconvene to continue the conversation. Then stick to your word and approach the subject again after you have taken time to consider the issue.
9. Write notes.
Communication isn’t only verbal.
One thing I remember most about my years at home is the way my mom wrote me notes and letters. Through the years, she shared poems, Scriptures, encouragement, prayers, challenges, and much more. I learned a lot about my mom in her letters—about her character, her virtues, and her desire to make God the priority in her life. Her words provided much more than just the opportunity to communicate to me whatever was on her heart and mind in that moment. These letters also sent me the message that my mom was approachable concerning any issues in life that I faced.
There are times when written communication can allow you the opportunity to express your convictions more clearly and with less inhibition. If it’s been a while since you’ve connected with your teen on a heart level, it could be that a personal note from you would be exactly the kick-start your relationship needs to begin authentic communication.
10. Avoid avoidance.
If you choose, for whatever reason, not to communicate with your teen about a particularly difficult topic, know that you are still sending a message by saying nothing at all. For instance, topics such as sex, masturbation, homosexuality, and divorce are sometimes treated as taboo among families today. So if you ignore these and various other topics, assuming your teen will figure it all out on his or her own, trouble could be right around the corner.
Several years ago I counseled with Michael, a teenage boy contemplating suicide. His desire to end his life was the product of an ongoing struggle with porn that had begun years previously. He shared with me that his father, a pastor, would not discuss the matter with him. Michael said he felt all alone in dealing with this on his own. The silence from his dad left the son feeling all alone and, as he stated, “confused, dirty, and worthless.”
Many teens are hungry for help and guidance. Again, discussing such matters with your teen may be uncomfortable to you at times. But failing to do so could be much more harmful. No matter how inadequate, underprepared, uncomfortable, or uninvolved you may feel, your teen needs to hear from you. If you choose not to communicate with your teen, he or she will “listen” elsewhere for answers.
Keeping the Line Open
Right now, it may appear to you that the last thing your teen wants from you is a conversation. You may have been trying for years to connect and feel as though you have already implemented much of the information in this chapter, only to hear silence from the other end. Don’t hang up! Keep the line open. Remember, Satan is fighting to deceive you into believing that you are ineffective in communicating with your teen.
It is never too late to begin to communicate. You cannot change what happened in the past, so use that Sweeping Aside Motion. You can only control what you choose to do now. Sure, your teen may not open up to you overnight about every detail of his or her life. But by stepping out in faith, asking questions, and listening, you will have done your part in communicating your desire to be an involved parent. And sometime, even though it may be years from now, you will see the reward of consistently pursuing communication with your teen.
You may be thinking: Jeffrey these 10 strategies kind of feel like I’m a salesperson and my kids are potential clients.
Well, I don’t want you to overthink it…however, there are times when you have to be strategic about having the most impact in your kids lives. Of the 10 I’ve given you, you may find that only 4 strategies, or only 2 strategies make sense. Okay, great! Now you have 2 strategies that maybe you hadn’t thought through previously.
My challenge to you: Work these strategies to the best of your ability so that you can grow your relationship with your family.
Remember, your kids may never come to you to initiate conversation. But, they do need you to come to them. Even if they don’t show it or even fully know it, THEY WANT TIME WITH YOU & ATTENTION FROM YOU!