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It happens more often than we would like to admit. In the flurry of life, you have been about your business and your children have been about their business - going to school, being involved in activities, developing relationships.

All of a sudden you look across the dinner table and realize you don't really know that young person whom you call your son or daughter. You know their name. You know some of their habits. You know their idiosyncrasies. But you do not know what is going on in their heart, nor in their mind. You don't know the challenges and struggles they are facing.

So you try to start a conversation by asking them what is going on in their life at school and with their friends. Their reaction is, "What do you want to know my business for? Why are you so nosy?" You realize there is not just a gap, but a wall keeping you from getting into your teen's world.

The sad thing is many parents do not discover the wall in that way. Many times parents discover there is a wall when their teenage son or daughter does something that is almost unthinkable for a parent. It's not until their teen gets pregnant, gets someone else pregnant, gets caught with drugs at a party, or gets arrested that they realize their young person is in a whole other world that they have no idea about.

Following are some quotes from young people giving their perspectives on communication with their parents:

"I feel like there is a wall between me and my parents. They just don't understand how I feel. We have talked about it, and we get along a little better, but things just aren't the way I wish they would be."

"I wish they just would have said they will love and accept me no matter what I choose to do or what friends I have."

"My mom has always chosen what her boyfriends wanted over what her kids needed. I have been sent to family member after family member to take part in raising me. I just wish she would once in a while stop telling me how much of a nuisance I am and pat me on the back."

As you can see, situations like this not only cause a lot of hurt, but build a huge wall. According to Jay Kesler, the top ten mistakes parents make with their children are:

1. Do as I say, not as I do.
2. I'm the adult. I'm right.
3. Because I said so, that's why.
4. You want to be what?
5. This room's a pigsty.
6. Can't you do anything right?
7. Where did you find them?
8. You did what?
9. Do you mind if we talk about something else?
10. I'm kind of busy right now. Could you come back later?1

As a result, a wall has been erected between thousands of parents and their teenagers - and most parents are oblivious to it.

When they have finally discovered there is a wall and an entirely different life on the other side, parents find it seemingly impossible to break through. Once we discover there is a problem and a barrier in our communication, we want to fix it right away. "C'mon, let's stop having a wall there and let's just get to know each other."

But that is not so easily and quickly done by a young person. They have taken years to build that wall out of brick and stone and do not want to tear it down quickly.

Here are a few principles you can use to break through some of the stony, cold relationships you might have:

1. Most walls begin to go up when someone is hurt. Something has been said or done, either one time or on a number of occasions, that has caused hurt, and no effort has been made to deal with that hurt. As a result, that hurt turns to anger, which basically says, "Forget it then. I'm not going to say anything. I'm going to live my own life, do my own thing, and live in my own world."

It is impossible to live in this world without getting hurt by someone. Relationships are made out of two or more emotionally complex individuals. The goal is not to avoid the hurt, but to know how to deal with an offense when there is one.

Think back through situations you may have been involved in with your young person that may have caused some sort of hurt or turmoil. It may be divorce, words exchanged in the heat of an argument, something done to them, something repeatedly said to them, or anything that may have caused hurt.

Is this to say that it is all your fault? Of course not, but as parents we must take responsibility to find these barriers and tear them down. One teen said:

"I wish that my parents would admit that sometimes they are at fault too."

Once you've identified those areas of possible hurt, go to your young person and ask them to forgive you for specific things you said or did that may have caused any kind of hurt. Don't make a blanket statement and say, "For anything I may have done...." because that sounds wimpy and insincere. Make sure you back up your apology by changing your vernacular or your actions in a certain area to show them you meant it. As you begin to ask for forgiveness, their heart will begin to soften a little bit.

2. Really listen to your kids. James 1:19 says, "Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." Most of us are slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to get angry. If you want to really find out what is going on in your teen, begin to really listen to them. As some teenagers put it:

"They should have tried to listen. I don't even try anymore."

"They sent me to counseling without trying to help me themselves. They just gave up on me."

"They wouldn't listen, they overreacted."

"When I try to explain my feelings to my mom, she does not understand or see it the same; so she gets upset and snaps at me and tells me I'm wrong. She doesn't listen to my whole story."

"My parents would be the greatest parents in the world if they didn't ask me to be honest about my feelings and then get totally upset if I express my true feelings."

"I wish that my parents would stop talking and listen to what I have to say. I want to tell them so much, but they never stop to listen to me."

Make a habit of listening - not just when you ask, "What's going on in your life?" but when they are sharing stories from school or other things that may seem unimportant to you. Repeat in your mind what they say to you to keep your mind from wandering. Tune in to the feelings behind the words. The words of a man's mouth are deep waters (Proverbs 18:4). Behind the words there is a person. They are trying to express something really deep if you'll only listen to them.

Something happens when you listen. The person you're listening to feels like you care enough about them to really tune in. You don't even have to say you care - they can tell you do because you listen to them - and that will make your teen more inclined to listen to you.

There is an unspoken reciprocity that makes a person feel obligated to listen to you after you have taken the time to listen to them. Don't make your teen feel obligated. Don't tell them they should listen. Wait for them to want to and you'll begin to see the walls break down.

Another teen said: "I made a mistake with a boy and they drilled it out of me. Then they told me they were going to talk to him and his parents. That made me feel like I could never trust them with anything again."

As you are listening, be careful how you react to what you hear. Your reaction will determine whether your teen can trust you in the future.

John 15:15 says, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

Jesus is redefining His relationship with His disciples, moving them from servants to friends. He shared with them everything His Father shared with Him. He basically told them, "You're not just acquaintances. You're not just people that hang around Me. I have shared My heart with you. You know what goes on inside Me. You know what makes Me tick. Things that My Father whispered to Me I whispered to you. Now you're qualified to be called My friends."

Do you think you should be best friends with your kids? Is it possible to be that kind of friend with your own offspring? One teenager, Stephen Lake from New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, says,

"My dad is my best friend. We do a lot of things together...He's human and fun to be around. He can be strict. But he's fair. And I respect him for that. I feel free to tell him my concerns. And I trust him."

Meanwhile, his father, Richard Lake, says,

"We are good friends...There's a line between being the friend and being the father. I have to use tough love and say no when I think something isn't good for him. And the friendship should be strong enough to be able to say no."

There comes a time in your relationship with your young person when you have to take it from "you're just my son or daughter," to a level of friendship. You begin to do that when you talk to them. Really share your heart. Don't just tell them the rules and regulations and things they need to do.

Jesus told the disciples they were qualified to be friends because they knew His heart. If you want to develop a close relationship with your young person, they need to get to know you. A parent might say, "Yeah, well, they don't need to know my business." They don't want to know your business. They want to know you.

Most young people feel lonely because they don't know their own parents. They sleep under the same roof with strangers every night. The walls in your relationship have been up long enough. It's time to break them down and get to know each other once again. By admitting your failures, asking forgiveness, really listening, and sharing your heart when you talk, you'll be amazed at how much restoration will happen in your relationship with your young person.

Endnotes:
1 Jay Kesler, Ten Mistakes Parents Make With Teenagers (Wolgemuth & Hyatt Publishers, 1988).

Source: The Rescue Manual For Parents by Ron Luce
Excerpt permission granted by Albury Publishing

Author Biography

Ron Luce
Web site: Ron Luce
 
Ron Luce was the co-founder's and president of Teen Mania Ministries from 1986-2015. Ron and his wife Katie dreamed to raise up young people who would change the world.
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