4 things Teenagers would
like to say to their Parents
October 17, 2022
[Kyle]: In today's episode we are going to share the four things teenagers have told us they want their parents to know. So, I hope you take a moment to listen these four things, because it will change your relationship with your teenager.
[Kyle]: Hello and welcome to episode 51 of The Art of Raising Humans. I’m Kyle.
[Sara]: And I’m Sara.
[Kyle]: And today, we've got some really good nuggets for you, you know? Over the years, Sara and I have had the opportunity to spend time with a lot of teenagers and I thought a really great follow-up to last week's podcast, if you hadn't heard it, it was fantastic, because our daughter Abby joined us and talked about what it was like growing up in our house and so, Abby's about to become a teenager soon and I thought this podcast, I wanted Sara and I to discuss these four main things that teenagers have told us over and over again, that they want from their parents. So, it's always nice to have a real easy number like four, isn't it?
[Sara]: It is, four is a great number.
[Kyle]: And it's a beautiful day today, right?
[Sara]: Yes, yes.
[Kyle]: I mean, the fall is here. Wherever you're listening to this, Oklahoma, we don't really like the summer, it's super hot and humid and fall, it's short-lived but, it's beautiful. So, we're starting to get some 70-degree weather. I hope wherever you're at listening to this, that your weather is fantastic, you're seeing beautiful fall leaves or have already had a chance to do that. So, if you have a teenager today or even if you don't have a teenager, this is going to be four great things for you to listen to, because I think it applies to all kids, but teenagers specifically--
[Sara]: I think teenagers are really looking for this. At this point in their time-- In their life, these things are just really critical for your relationship with them, for helping them grow in the stage that they're in.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Before we jump into this four, I want to reiterate that Sara and I are doing more speaking. We just did one recently at a MOPS group here in Tulsa.
[Sara]: Yes, a lot of fun.
[Kyle]: We've got another one coming up at a church in a couple weeks and some other school related ones. So, if you have a school, a church, a small or large parent group you want us to come speak at, we would love to talk with you. So, feel free to email us, you can reach us at our website, at parentinglegacy.com and there's a quick easy way to email us there. You can always comment on the podcast. So, we'd love you to do that. Please share this, let people know. If they want us to do some speaking stuff, we'd love to come and equip families to move away from fear and shame and start raising kids through self-discipline, self-control and those kinds of things.
[Kyle]: So, Sara, I want to jump into the number one thing. So, as I was-- I remember when I first wrote this list, it was many years ago, I was about to speak to a school full of teenagers and parents of teenagers and I started interviewing some teenagers and just kind of asking them their feedback. Like “if you could just tell your parents what you wanted them to change, what would it be?”, okay? So, that's what these four things came from. So, the number one thing that they said was “listen more, talk less and definitely stop yelling at me”. Is that a surprise to you?
[Sara]: No. No, I’d say we all-- I mean, that one a lot of us want, to be heard, to be really listened to and heard.
[Sara]: So, it didn't come as a surprise and teens often feel misunderstood, they feel disconnected from especially the grown-ups in their life. They feel like their friends are listening, there's connection with their friends, their friends understand them, but not their parents, not the teachers, not the grown-ups in their life. The grown-ups tend to come into the space to impart to the teenagers who need to know things, not to come listen and teens feel that.
[Kyle]: And I would say even on top of that, Sara, something that I know I struggled with is the talk less part, you know? So, even if I was doing better at yelling and maybe I wasn't yelling, I would want to talk more and more and more and I find a lot of kids, they don't even bring up a subject with the parents, because they're afraid of the lecture that's going to go on, you know?
[Kyle]: They'll tell them like they made their point in the first couple minutes and they went on for like 15 minutes and so, the kid is just hesitant. Even sometimes in a session where you're trying to help a kid and a parent do better, the kid doesn't want to bring it up, because they know the parent will leave that session and just go on and on and on about it, you know?
[Sara]: And honestly, by that teenage years-- Those teenage years, they've kind of heard it before anyway, so you're just laying on another layer in there. “I’ve already heard this before”.
[Sara]: And I think we as parents feel that crush of time. “I’ve only got a few more years, really important things are going on in their life, they're making really important decisions. I need to download this information now before they go or something happens” and you're kind of worried or you want to make sure that they're prepared and so, we're talking to help them, but it's just not accomplishing what we--
[Kyle]: Well and I try to tell those parents too. I understand you want to share all this, but if the kid isn't receptive to it and the kid's telling you he or she is not, they're kind of tuning you out because they feel like this is just another lecture, then you're not really reaching the goal, you know? If the goal is for the kid to receive the information and the kid’s saying “I’ve heard all this that you're saying, I’ve heard-- I don't need you to keep reiterating it. I know, I get the point, you think I messed up and I’m doing it wrong. I got all that, you just wrap that up in 30 seconds”, you know? And I also think what was important was, yeah, the yelling thing seems obvious, but as the teenagers were saying that in session, I began to notice that the one constant I saw that separated “healthy families” from unhealthy ones was the amount of yelling, you know?
[Kyle]: It seemed like it-- The techniques mattered what the parents were using, but the ones that just weren't yelling, there was a lot more receptivity in those families, because the yelling was causing a lot of shutting down, a lot of aggression, a lot of adversity and so, I think focusing on shifting away from yelling, I think then also helps you shift away from talking too much, you know? So, if you can kind of put those together and I think it's great if you focus on listening rather talking, there's no point in yelling either.
[Kyle]: So, that number one is “listen more, talk less and definitely stop yelling at me”. So, number two things that teenagers would repeat over and over again is “try understanding my point of view” and this is important, “instead of always insisting that I understand yours” and they went on to say “give my opinion of thought some value. I may have and many times do have the answer to the problems”.
[Sara]: And I love that because we do come in with our brilliant advice, right? But the teenage years, what we're wanting to do is help them actually use the information they have. Hopefully we've given them a lot and we want to help them pull that up, figure out how to use it. So, we sometimes need to pull back, even if we have a great answer and just ask the right questions, just listen and let them try to work it out, let them try to figure out “okay, this social situation happened, what do you do about it?” and sometimes, it's really hard to hold that back, but just trust that. “Okay, I can just be there with them as they're figuring this out, as they're working it out, as they're putting into practice the things that are probably already inside of them”.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Well, you heard me do this the other day, where Abby was conflicted about something that had gone on with a friend and I remember I had so many thoughts about it. I wanted to share so many solutions to this problem, it was just like, eating me up. But I saw on her face “I don't think that's why she's telling me this” and I said to her “do you want me to give you some of my thoughts on this or you just want me to listen?” and she said “I just want you to listen” and it was like, ugh!
[Kyle]: I just like, I just did it and then I did, I did follow up a couple days later and say “hey, I still had some thoughts about that thing, are you open to me sharing them now?” and at that point, she did say “yeah, I would like to hear your thoughts on it” and I was like “yes!”. So, even that was an important thing to me, as we're learning how to do this too, not only taking stuff from teenagers we help, but as we're raising a teenager is later on, she was open to it, she actually did want it, it was just in that moment and of course, that very much mirrors stuff in our own marriage, you know? There's times where I’m just venting to you about something, I don't necessarily want you to solve it or answer the problem, I just want you to listen to it. But then you may come back a day later and have some great thoughts and I’m just in a different place, I’m you know, I’ve shifted out of that emotional part of my brain and I’m now wanting to learn and grow and you share those thoughts and I receive them.
[Sara]: I think sometimes we all us earn it too. With a friend, anyone, if you listen first and genuinely listen, not just wait your turn.
[Sara]: Genuinely listen, then I think people are more “okay, you listened to me, now I am open. You've kind of earned this place”. If your child says “no” though, you have to respect that and just wait and if you do, I think then you bring back in point one, don't give your advice in too many words.
[Sara]: Make sure you're concise throughout those little gold nuggets and let it be, but you might find more opportunities if you do that.
[Kyle]: Well, I like what you're saying there too, Sara, because it is like earning it, but it's also like “you're trying to give me advice you really don't understand the problem”, like “I just told you this little tiny bit of the problem and then you're coming back with all these answers”. Like “I really haven't told you a lot of it”. I know some kids will even say that, because what happens is the teenager will not tell them about a couple events that happened and so, like event number three happens and they'll share that and the parents will have all this advice about event number three and the kid's like “I never even talked about event number one and two that led to number three, and you know what? I really don't want to go into all that right now”, you know? And it's not really until, like you said, the parent has sought to understand event number three, that then the kid later on is like “well, let me give you some backstory to that”, you know?
[Sara]: Yes, that’s true.
[Kyle]: And you almost like, earned the right to hear, you know, number one event to.
[Sara]: I think you show you can be trusted with it. “Oh, you're really gonna listen to me. Oh, you're just actually gonna hear what I’m saying and seek to understand me” and then I think in that case, then it leads to the possibility of them being more open.
[Kyle]: Well, and also I think the message that's received when you're in the limbic system, that emotional part of your brain and you're just sharing an event with somebody and they come back with all these thoughts, I think-- I don't think the person means to say this, but what can be received is “what are you, an idiot? Like, why didn't you think of this?” or “what is your problem? Why did you not say this to that person?” and so, I’m sure at times in my mind-- As I’m sharing that, Abby would be like “I don't want to hear that, because I just want you to just listen to this moment” and something else I did, going back to tying two and one together is, I remember something that really helped with Abby is, when I would talk a lot, she gave me the feedback. I noticed she was kind of tuning out and of course, that upsets most parents when that happens, but when I was talking to her about it, she said “Dad, I just feel like you're sharing way too much, I just want you to sum it up quicker”.
[Kyle]: So, I purposely limited myself the next few times we did a follow-up conversation to some kind of conflict and I just limited myself to five questions. I wanted to just pursue understanding what she was thinking in that moment or what she was going on and even though in those five questions I wanted to follow up, I wanted to ask six, seven, eight, nine, ten questions, I just tried to sum it up with five questions that would help me better understand how she was feeling about the situation, what she was thinking about and then at the end of the five, I showed her my ability to control myself, to restrain myself and just leave it at those five and I asked her “how did that go?” and I remember she said “that was great dad, I like that, I actually feel like I learned something” and so, I think if parents can also do just-- Put a boundary if it's hard to not talk over and over again with the kid for long periods, put just an artificial boundary around it and just give yourself a certain number of questions to ask and the goal is to pursue understanding them, not them understanding you.
[Sara]: Well, what's neat about that too, is it really helps them actually practice working it out, because in asking them the questions, they're having to formulate “oh, this is what happened and this is what happened” and it’s sort of helping them lay it out and come to a solution or gain more insight or something, by asking just questions.
[Kyle]: Yeah, so good, yeah. Okay, so number one was “listen more, talk less, definitely stop yelling at me”. Number two is “try understanding my point of view instead of always insisting I understand yours”. So, Point number three that teenagers would say over and over again is “notice when I do stuff that is helpful and right, instead of always noticing how I fail and make mistakes”.
[Sara]: Oh, man, don't we do that a lot. I think it's just-- It's just-- You're-- In all areas of life with all children across the age spans, I think we just think “oh no! don't do that! Oh, stop that!” or “oh, don’t--!”. You know, we don't often-- We don't often pause and put as much energy and focus on “wow, okay, you're--” I mean, when your kids brush your teeth and go to the bathroom now, we don't say-- You know” awesome”, we just kind of expect it to be done. As soon as they accomplish that milestone or that check box, then it's done and away with.
[Sara]: And we forget that sometimes we still need to notice “oh, you did the dishes. Thanks” or you know, “I love the way you did this” instead of just taking it for granted.
[Kyle]: Yeah, “you were kind to your brother and sister”, yeah.
[Sara]: Yeah, instead of taking it for granted those things they do every day, really put some energy into noticing them. Because there's a lot that go by, we don't see.
[Kyle]: Yeah, why do you think we do that?
[Sara]: I don’t--
[Kyle]: Or why do we as parents tend to do that?
[Sara]: I mean, I think it's just that responsibility we feel to raise them and sort of, form the successful human. And so, with that pressure, we're looking for tweaking and fixing and getting them settled and set and ready to go and launch into the world and we're so focused on what we're supposed to impart to them, sometimes we forget that that's a big piece of it.
[Kyle]: Well, and as you're saying that, I’m thinking about little babies, you know? When they start to first talk, we're just so excited about the few words they're saying, we're not mad about all the words they aren't saying, you know? Or the few little steps they take.
[Sara]: It’s easier to do it with babies.
[Kyle]: Yes, we're really focused on, because we're looking at what they can do and trying to encourage, instead of-- “oh, they're doing something! look at this!”, right? Whereas as they get older, we're focused on what they aren't doing and I think it does go back to fear, the fear of like you said, failing at what we're-- What we feel like we're supposed to do, which is raise these successful human beings, you know? So, and I think lots of times by the teenage years, there was a lot of fear being used with us like, in the sense of “why aren't you doing more?”
[Sara]: Yeah, we’re repeating that cycle.
[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, we're used to those interactions. You know, a lot of people are dreading when their kids’ become teenagers, so there's already fear coming down. Like “oh, look, now they're getting-- They rolled their eyes, I totally feared that would happen” or “they're grumbling underneath their breath” or “they're walking away from me and stomping up the stairs” and there's all this like, “oh, I fear that they would become like this, our relationship would be horrible” and so, we're focused on stopping that, rather than seeing all the other beautiful things that they’re doing.
[Sara]: I think too it's probably a reflection a little of our own self-talk.
[Sara]: You know, “I need to do this! I’ve got to do that! I need to be better at this and better at that” and it's more of an exercise to sit back in gratitude and notice even the things we're doing really well and appreciate the things we're successful in or have accomplished or whatever. We don't sit long in that, right? We're on to the next check box to tick off.
[Sara]: And we kind of do that with our kids too.
[Kyle]: Yeah, the one example I wrote down here, Sara, that comes to my mind a lot is, early on when I first started the practice, there was a young lady who came to see me. There was a lot of conflict with her and her parents and I remember one day before a session, mom came in and showed me some pictures of how dirty the kids’ room was and how disgusting--
[Kyle]: And it was pretty disgusting, it was pretty gross, it was pretty dirty and she was so mad and so, when the girl came in, I was--I just said to the girl like “listen, your mom is really upset about this. I mean, can you throw her a bone? I mean, just clean the room like, it would really help your relationship with your mom” and I remember she said “no, I’m not going to do that” and I said “how come?”. She said “you know, this past summer I worked my butt off to do that stuff for them, I did all the chores and even extra chores just because I wanted them to be happy with me and then one day, I didn't feed the dog and they didn't shut up about that the whole summer. They didn't notice anything else I was doing, they just noticed I didn't feed the dog."
[Kyle]: And I could totally feel having known these parents, I could see that being true, because they were very scared that their daughter was going down this path and yet, she was telling me she intentionally had tried to change that, tried to show them that wasn't the past she wanted to take, but that's the path they believed she was on and she was going to have to like, perform miracles to change that perspective.
[Sara]: She felt kind of hopeless. Yeah, I think teenagers want to be seen, right? They're wanting to be understood as they come to know themselves and we're part of that process of them coming to know themselves. So, I think when we don't notice those things, that's part of missing them and it goes back to the one where we gotta listen to them, we've got to notice because otherwise, it's like we're not hearing and we're not seeing them.
[Kyle]: Well, I think there's this fear in them too, that they are screw-ups, that they aren't going to succeed, they're going to be messed up adults, you know? And so, we spend all this time and emotional energy shining alive and all the times they do that, I think it confirms their biggest fear and that's why they eventually just start closing the door and they don't want you to come in the room, they don't want to talk to you, because they're tired of hearing about this stuff, you know?
[Kyle]: Okay. So, number three was “notice when I do stuff that is helpful and right, instead of always noticing how I fail and make mistakes”. Okay, so number four and this one kind of surprised me. Those first three, I wasn't as surprised, but number four actually did surprise me. They said “spend time doing things I’m interested in doing. I don't mind spending time with you, but I would actually like to choose what we do occasionally” and that actually surprised me, because this was coming from kids who were parents were bringing them to the practice, to get help, because the relationship was pretty bad. That the kid, there's a lot of conflict, a lot of yelling, sometimes big explosive arguments and I thought the kid would want to have nothing to do with the parents. So, when almost every teenager said this, it kind of surprised me.
[Sara]: Yeah, I think going back again, they're figuring themselves out, they've gotten interests now that maybe are different than yours and you're-- Instead of going back to the things you guys used to do or always did or what you like, be really curious about what they're into nowadays, what do they really like. Learn about it even if it's not your thing. If you don't know how to play video games, you know, ask them what-- If they're spending time doing that, “what do you like about it? What do you do? Can I watch? Can we do it together?”, find out what movies they like, find out what music they listen to. Get into their interests, that's what their friends are doing too.
[Kyle]: Exactly, that's how they made those friends, yeah, is they all started doing things they like to do.
[Kyle]: And I think sometimes what happens, Sara, what I notice is, once-- Like you said, it's easy to connect at first, maybe they have some mutual interests and along the way, those interests start to change and then, the parent starts taking as rejection when the kid doesn't want to do those things. So, then the kid-- So, then the parent just starts believing a lie, just like-- I think I kind of believe [Unintelligible] when I see that the kid doesn't want to spend time with me and so, a lot of times when I say--
[Sara]: It's just part of that pushing in a way that teens do.
[Kyle]: Yes, and they need to find themselves and so, we need to be ships in the night--
[Sara]: Parents aren't cool.
[Kyle]: Yes, yeah, instead of like, knowing the kid wants to spend time with you. You actually hold in your hands a lot of stuff the kid actually needs in their life, they need to look in your face and see who they are, because something in them says “you've known me more than my friends have, there's things you know about me that they don't know and I need to know that stuff, I need to hear from you what you know about me” and so, sometimes I find, Sara, that pushing away of “I don't like it”, there's a couple of different ways. Somebody's parents will just say “Hey, listen, we're going, let's go do this” and the kid would tell me “I’m so glad they did that, because I really was like ‘no, I’m gonna hate this, I’m going to hate this, I’m gonna hate this’” and typically they think they're gonna hate it just because they don't know how to like, deal with the awkwardness of hanging out with you, because it just hasn't been the norm lately. But then when they go, they're like “actually, it was kind of fun”, you know?
[Kyle]: And then another way to do it, is say like-- Well, instead of just saying “you're going with me”, you know and that doesn't mean a demanding way, but more like an assertive way, it's like “hey, you tell me what you want to do, let's go do it”, you know? Maybe we take turns, right? Something I’ve recommended, Sara, that, you know, I’m doing with two of our oldest kids, is a simple thing to do is like “pick a certain kind of food you like”. Like, Brennan loves hamburgers, Abby loves chicken fingers and so, when we spend time together, I just thought it'd be fun to explore Tulsa and every time I’m with Abby, we'll go get a new chicken finger place and we'll like-- So, it's kind of a fun way we're connecting, we both like to eat these kinds of food and then we're like, able to rate these foods, which one's the best one. I know one family I was helping, Sara, they love sushi. So, they were trying to do the same idea with sushi all around Tulsa and trying to get the best sushi place.
[Sara]: That’s great, that's great, yeah. Food's a great way to hang out with teenagers.
[Kyle]: Typically, it's easy, right? I mean, that's an easy one.
[Sara]: Yeah, it's a great starting place.
[Kyle]: Yeah. Even I know one guy I read a book, I can't remember what it was called, but it was about as he grew up, he noticed it was harder and harder to connect with his teenager. That after school, if he tried to do something with him or talk to him, the kid was not interested. But then one night, he woke up and he was thirsty and he went to go get water and his son was up, as teenagers might be, you know? After-- And so, he walked by and his son was playing some video games or watching something and he's like “hey, where you up too, Dad?” and he like, he sat down to drink his water and he noticed his son just started opening up to him and so, he started intentionally setting his alarm like, a couple nights a week, maybe two different times a week, to wake up at like 11 o'clock at night, go get a drink of water and he just act like he did it on accident, like it was just like a thing and he found out that that's when his son would talk about his relationships, his friendships, you know? Struggles and he just like, he knew “this is tiring, but I can do this for a couple more years until he leaves for college, because I want to make sure we have this connection."
[Sara]: Nice, yeah. Well, what I love about that, he didn't come down-- “okay, son, let's talk about school now”, he just sat and listened and that's what we need to remember. If we do go out for chicken fingers, it's not to talk about their school day and their-- Unless that's something they want to bring up and talk about, it's just to delve into their interests and just to hear from them and that's not the lecture time, that's not that trying to catch up on. You know, it's just time to connect in a fun way.
[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah. So, to wrap it up, those four are “listen more, talk less, definitely stop yelling at me”. Number two, “try understanding my point of view instead of always insisting that I understand yours”. Number three, “notice when I do stuff that is helpful and right, instead of always noticing how I fail and make mistakes” and the fourth one is “spend some time doing things I’m interested in doing. I actually like spending time with you”. So, I love those four things, the only thing I would add upon that, Sara, that sometimes you and I tell parents of teenagers a lot is “pursue them and seek to understand them”. If you just summed it up “pursue them”, okay? They're naturally pushing away and trying to become independent, but don't believe that's a rejection of you, it's an embracing of something else. But they-- I think sometimes teenagers will push away and the parent will just run away and the kid will go “where did you go!?”
[Sara]: And how the parent retreats.
[Kyle]: Yes, and the kid’s like “it was that easy? Man, I just say go away and you did? Like I actually want you around, I actually need you around. So, even if I’m giving you messages to the contrary, I actually want you to pursue me, because I need you and I need your input, I need your wisdom, I need your--” and in that process, then seek to understand. So, once you pursue and you get time with them, just seek to understand them, that's exactly what their friends are doing, that's what really good coaches are doing, really good mentors are doing, you know?
[Kyle]: And so, I think if you do those two things, those really help you in those years when they're trying to be independent, trying to figure things out. You know, sometimes in America, I think, Sara, we believe the goal is to be self-reliant and self-sufficient.
[Kyle]: And so, the kids sometimes will believe that too, that if I need you at all, that's a sign of weakness.
[Sara]: Weakness, oh yeah.
[Kyle]: Yeah, I’m supposed to be all on my own, right? And so, instead I need to-- The kid doesn't realize that Independence isn't the goal, it's eventually interdependence. It's the ability to find out who you are, you know and go pursue, feel competent.
[Sara]: Be a whole healthy human person, yeah.
[Kyle]: But then, no, there's going to be times you don't know what to do and know there's people who love you, that are right next to you and you can ask for help.
[Sara]: Yeah, hopefully we're all whole healthy people, but then we're there for each other and we can connect with each other and that's healthy relationships. So, let your teen be your teen, but that doesn't mean they just have to be apart from you.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, in wrapping this up, I hope this is helpful to you. If you have teenagers, I want to say at the end, you know, we have a private practice. So, the private practice is called “Parenting Legacy” and we have a website, parentinglegacy.com and if you think your teenager needs some help or some coaching or you need some help in doing things with your teenager, feel free to reach out. You can always go to the website and when you go to the website, you can sign up and get a session there and we can talk about how to help your teenager through some of this stuff and help you in navigating, because it can be scary, be scary raising a teenager.
[Sara]: Yeah, it's hard.
[Kyle]: Yeah. So, I hope this is really helpful, please share this with your friends who have teenagers, because I think these four things, if teenagers could just say these to their parents, I think it would completely transform those interactions and enjoy this magnificent fall day. So, thank you for listening and have a great night.