Open Communication = Eating Crow

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Everyone knows that communication is key to any relationship, but we especially know it’s important when raising teenagers.  In my opinion, communication shuts down NOT because the teen quits talking as much, but because the parents don’t like what the teen has to say. For 13 years our kids have had to listen to us point out their weaknesses, and punish them when those weaknesses are exposed.  By the time that kid hits age 14, he’s about had it and is screaming for equal time.  At about age 14 is when he has decided that it’s his turn to point out Mom and Dad’s weaknesses.  We as parents don’t like it.  The teen years are ALL ABOUT EATING CROW:

How to eat crow well.

The best way I know to eat crow is to put a huge plate in front of you and grab the biggest fork and spoon you can find (in my case I preferred to use a shovel). Then ENCOURAGE YOUR TEEN SON OR DAUGHTER TO PILE IT ON.  Crow never tastes good going down. In fact, at times it can scratch your throat, but if you swallow hard you can get it down.

Once when our son was age 14 we were really at odds with each other, so we developed a tool that enabled him to be more effective at piling crow onto our plates. Tim and I were determined to keep the communication lines open during the teen years. The way you do that is by asking the right questions. The right questions are the kind of questions that allow the teen to vent how they are feeling even if the parent does not like what the teen is saying. Like I said in my last blog, Tim and I allowed our teen to say ANYTHING to us as long as it was done in a respectful tone of voice. When our son was 14, we once logged 40 hours of dialogue over a two-week period. I know because I kept track of it. The last question we asked our son was, “What have you learned from all this?” His answer was like gold to our souls. He said, “I have learned that my parents really do want to hear what I have to say.”

Over the years I have had several parents ask about how to communicate with their teenagers, so I have changed the work sheet to be generic in form so any teen grievances can be filled in the blank. I hope this helps someone.  Feel free to cut and paste it to your own document and use with your own teens.  Below are the questions we used.

Tools for helping your teen “pile on the crow”
(AKA: Questions to Improve Communication)

(Name of Son/Daughter)_________________________________________
Please take some time to think and pray over the following questions. We are deeply concerned that you are hurting and want to make sure that we hear and understand your heart concerning this issue. Take as much time as you need, we want to be sure that you are comfortable with your answers. These questions are our way of letting you know that the door of dialogue is always open. If at any time you would like to discuss these questions we are available. We have seen that our response concerning  __________________________________  (issue you are dialoguing about) has put a wedge between our relationship and we will do anything to remove that wedge. We miss you!

1. Do you think we are being over protective by not allowing you to: _____________________________________________

2. Do you think that we are being paranoid? _________________________________

3. Do you think we are over-reacting due to the pain we have experienced?
Note: Many times parents react to their teenagers misbehavior out of fear from their own past. If the parents have sinned in the same area as their teenager, it is vital for them to confess their sins to their teenagers. When we confess our sins it will break the power of the generational curse. When we try to hide our past from our teenagers it increases the power of the generational curse.

4. Our goal is to teach you the relational skills you need so that you can be a successful husband/father someday. Do you feel like we have properly equipped you in this area? ______________________If not, how can we improve? _________________________________________________

5. Do you feel that by not allowing you to (Name behavior) ___________________________________________
that we do not think that God is committed to your well-being? ___________________________________________

6. Has our uneasiness planted fear in your heart?_____________________________________

7. How do you feel about (behavior)? ____________________________
If you would like more information, we would be happy to provide you with any books YOU choose and if you would like to discuss them with us over tacos we would be honored. _____________________________________________

8. We celebrate the amazing young man/woman who you are and we are confident that you will find the right path for your life.

9. We deeply appreciate you and trust your walk with God.

10. How can we give you responsibilities for your life in increments so you can feel successful? _________________________________________
You have an amazing track record and we have the utmost confidence that you will handle this like the champ that you are.

11. Would it help if we developed a signal or code so we could alert each other when we are getting on each other’s nerves? _____________________
Perhaps a hooking signal? Note: My kids play hockey so they know what this means. So if I start to nag you or not trust you, you can throw me the hooking signal and I will back off and say, “Okay, thanks for handling that Tyler.” If I throw the signal then you will respond, “Sorry mom, I’m listening, what are you wanting to tell me?” I will do my best to use as few words as possible.

12. Would you be willing to work to come up with an option that everyone is pleased with so that we can build trust and turn our fear into faith? _____________________________________________

13. What can we do that will allow both of us to be thrilled? _________________________________________

14. Can you please describe to us the difference between lust and love?________________________________________

15. How can we do a better job at making you feel that you are in control of your world, however still remain confident that you will not think and act like you are above the rules? ______________________________________________

16. Do you feel like we are not respecting you, by not allowing you to ____________________________________________?
Is there anything else that you would like to add that will help us gain a better understanding of how you feel? ______________________________________________

17. Do you think we are stupid for not allowing you to _________________________________?

18. What are some constant daily tensions you will be faced with by (behavior issue) ______________________________________________?

19. Would you be willing to talk with Pastor _________  or Pastor ________ about this issue? ________________________________________________

20. Would you be willing to ask their advice concerning this issue? ______________________________________________

21. How would you feel about me working to come up with options that everyone is thrilled with? ______________________________________________

(Name of teenager)__________________________ Do you think….

1. That (Behavior Issue) _________________________________________is:

• No Big Deal – EVERYONE does it

• Not Smart but Not a Bad thing either

• A Bad thing but not a terrible thing

• A Sign of a person who is insecure and they need understanding

• A warning from the Lord

2. That our reaction to (Behavior Issue)___________________________
• Has made the situation worse? ___________
• Has made the situation better? ___________

• Makes you (Name) _____________________________act worse because we believe the worst about you?

• Is ignoring your opinion?______________________________

• Has some points of wisdom and some points that are not smart? _____________________________________________

3. In your opinion, is there a better way to handle this? _______________________________________

(Name of wise friend, pastor or brother)_________________________________
spoke very wisely when they shared with you that (nugget of truth) _________________________________ is a SMALL TEST for (Name of teenager) __________________________ and if you do not pass this test, then the Lord will permit you to go through larger tests.

• Do you feel like we have really heard your heart or do you feel that you have been dominated by Dad and me? ___________________________________________

• Do you feel that we trust you or do you feel like we are treating you like a foolish child? ______________________________________________

Our youngest son is 19 now and just yesterday I had to eat crow. After three teens I’m pretty good at it now, and since my teens are older I have to eat less and less crow. But after he pointed out a weakness of mine, I just said, “Ya know, I hate that I do that.  I really need to change that, would you pray that God will help me change that about myself?”

Tomorrow we will talk about the difference between an adult and a child.


About Professional Parenting

Wife, mother, motivational speaker, author, counselor and teacher. I have 3 adult children and a husband of 27 years. For the past 13 years I have served the youth and their parents at Liberty Church in Marietta Georgia. I loved everything about being a mom: I loved the terrible twos, and the terrifying teens, and the cake in my hair, and the spilled punch. I loved the chaos, the noise, the craziness of tons of kids. It was everything I wanted in my life. I loved that constant overwhelming feeling of someone being completely dependent on me as well as that joyful, aweful feeling of watching that same someone just 18 years later leave me and go off in the world on their own. Interests: * Christian * wife * mom * child training * pre-teens * teenagers * youth group * young girls * young women * seasoned sisters Favorite Books: * "Praying for Your Adult Children" By: Stormie Omartian * "Life on the Edge" By Dr. Dobson (Note: This was required reading for my kids when they turned 13.)
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