How To Better Communicate And LISTEN To Your Teenagers

As our children are growing up, Lisa and I have recognized the importance of creating a safe place to land – especially for our teens. And it’s been hard, because I want to talk! I want to fix! I want to give my opinion! But on the flip side, they just want to be heard. They don’t want to be shamed. They don’t want to be judged. And they don’t want my solutions.

I have to admit, I can actually feel myself getting triggered WHILE they are talking. And because I’ve jumped in many times – even before they have finished talking – they don’t trust that I will ever listen. They don’t trust that I won’t always cut in. And they don’t trust that I won’t judge what they’re saying. But I am trying – by making some rules and following those rules.

So our family established “Code 7-3.”

With the 7-3 rule, the kids can talk for 7 minutes straight – without interruption. And as parents, we just listen. Then for 3 minutes, we get to explain our thoughts, concerns and any questions that may have come up – without them needing to answer us.

For example, when our oldest son, Dominic, was telling me about his recent breakup – by listening to the situation, instead of reacting, I was able to gather all the information and when it was my turn to speak, thoughtfully asked, “I’m wondering if you’re emotionally mature to date, in the first place, if you’re breaking up with someone via text?” As the 7-3 rule states, he didn’t have to answer me – but it gave him the space to hear me out and really think about what I was saying. I got through to him without yelling! Who would’ve thought….

See, when I take myself out of the responding role, I become a much better listener. And the feelings that come up for me, are much more emotionally matured too. A few years ago, I would have went into a complete tirade – having heard what my son did. And in return, he would have completely ignored me. But now, I’m actually thinking about his maturity level. And his feelings. And if he wants support. That was exactly what Dom needed in that moment. He felt heard.

At work, I jump in all the time. I’m an entrepreneur. I’m constantly in “fix-it” mode and I get PAID to solve shit. I get rewarded for that kind of behavior. But my son doesn’t want me to solve him. He’s not a puzzle. He just wants me to be there and to listen.

I may sound like a broken record, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to listening. Are you a good listener? Do you create a safe space for your kids to open up, without being judged? How are you building trust? See what happens when you hear them out, is that you validate their feelings. You’re showing them that you understand and respect where they’re coming from. We love our kids unconditionally, and because we want to create a safe place to land, I have to close my mouth, open my ears and listen with my heart.

It’s gonna take time. But you can start TODAY. Try not to judge their feelings and instead, just listen. I’m sure YOU remember what it was like at their age…  just wanting to be heard.

Share your story or thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn. You can also email me at DJ@Dare2Dad.com.