Here are a few more actionable tips to improve your communication with your son through the power of connection.
Another way to get more connection with your son is to think about the acronym P.A.C.E. which stands for playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy. I learned about this from one of my favorite parenting experts, Dan Hughes. The P stands for playfulness. Using humor and light heartedness in your parenting approach can really bring the two of you together. Most teenage boys love humor and it is one of their favorite ways to connect (just pay attention to the YouTube videos they choose to watch and share with others!)
I recently read that humor is the social glue between boys and you can certainly capitalize on this truth. This approach is good for you and your teenager because studies have shown that laughter releases endorphins, which will melt away stress and tension. This breaks down the barriers between you and your son, thus paving the way for better, more relaxed communication. I love using humor when I am talking to teen boys, especially the ones that are the most pissed off about having to talk to me. My standard line is, “Boy I can tell you are excited to be here today!” with a big smile on my face. I try to follow up with some playful jokes and lighten up the conversation before trying to talk about anything serious.
The Danish comedian Victor Borge said, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” You know your son’s sense of humor. Can you use that to find a way into his world? Whether it is sarcasm, jokes, a playful tone of voice or just doing unexpected fun things. Give it a try today, especially if this is something outside of your comfort zone.
The A is for acceptance, which is the opposite of judgement and it results in you taking a loving stance. The C stands for curiosity, show interest in him and not just in his grades or how well he follows the rules. Some teens feel like all their parents want is a perfect kid with a clean room, good grades and an agreeable disposition.
Get into his world, be OK with it getting messy and seek to respectfully know him and his experiences. Of course you risk him shutting the door in your face, either physically or metaphorically, but maybe that is OK. You will learn where his boundaries are and keep trying to connect. The E stands for empathy, which is so powerful because it opens the door to more understanding, compassion and connection.
So remember to pay attention to your P.A.C.E. as you communicate with your teenage son, bringing more playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy into the mix.
Apologies & the art of repair
The next way to connect is to simply apologize. When you have had a difficult interaction, said or done something you regret, come back around and say, I’m sorry I was too nosy, pushy, demanding or whatever you need to own up to. You will gain a lot of trust and respect with your teenager if you are OK with acknowledging your mistakes and apologizing. It also makes it easier to allow him to take responsibility for his part in the situation. I always remember some of the early marriage advice of “always be the first to apologize” and it has served me well. I would say the same to you, no matter who is at fault always be the first to apologize.
You can certainly use the elements of P.A.C.E. that we just talked about to work on what I call the art of repair. There are any number of things that cause a relationship break and they can happen often. Parents and teenagers usually make a lot of mistakes on both sides. You step on each other toes, say things you don’t mean and sometimes it even gets ugly. There are too many families that leave conflicts unresolved and it has an impact on the family. Some of the teens I have talked to over the years can point to a single event or incident where they decided they could no longer trust or rely on their parents. Some kids grow up wishing their parents would have just once said sorry. This doesn’t have to be you and your family.
Earn his respect and create connection by apologizing when you make mistakes.
Here is a quick recap of the ways to increase connected communication with your son.
- Set your intention on connection versus correction
- Show him respect and treat him like a young man
- Use the power of love languages to let him know you care
- Try adding playfulness and curiosity to your approach
- Make sure to apologize & seek to repair relationship breaks
Here are some action points if you would like to apply these ideas.
- For the rest of this week, count the number of times each day that you correct your teen and then count the number of times you seek to connect with him. Which number is greater? What might this information tell you?
- Find one way each day to use playfulness and humor to connect with your son.
- Reflect on the last argument or difficult interaction you had with your son. Bring it back up and apologize for your part. “You know, I was thinking about our disagreement last week and I just wanted to apologize.”