The Power Of Connection : Part 2

Mom and teenage kids

Here are a few more actionable tips to improve your communication with your son through the power of connection.

Use P.A.C.E.

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.”
I hope you have a great rest of the week and thanks so much for reading and being a part of my community!

The Power Of Connection : Part 1

Young mother and teenage son

I always know when parents are struggling to connect with their teenage sons when they say things like this to me.

He just can’t stand the sound of my voice
We never have any fun together
He doesn’t want to do things with the family
He is always angry and doesn’t want to talk to me
I just can’t seem to get through to him
Do any of these sound familiar to you? Now, remember that some of these things can also be developmentally appropriate. He will have unpredictable moods at times, he will prefer his friends over the family and he may not know how to express himself, much less his emotions. However, there are some things you can do to create more connected communication with him despite these realities.

One of my longer term parenting goals is to maintain enough of a positive connection with my kids through the teenage years that they want to spend time with me as adults. I am always in awe and have so much respect for families who are really close with their adult children. I figure they have really done something right when their kids are grown and they don’t avoid them at all costs.

So, what does connection look like & why it is important? I’m glad you asked.

Researcher Dr. Brene Brown defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

You recognize connection when you feel it. There is eye contact, easy laughter, physical closeness and no one is looking for a route of escape from the conversation. These moments may be quick and infrequent and that is why you have to work to create connection and fight for it. It is important to say that we all desire mutual connectedness. However, you may not feel like your son understands you, hears you and values you. Nevertheless, you are seeking to make sure he knows that you see him, hear him and value him. You build the foundation and focus on the relationship, regardless of his responses or lack of motivation.

The truth is that none of the clever or creative parenting strategies work without genuine connection between you and your teen. If he feels safe, loved and understood by you then and only then will he be open to you and your influence. On the flip side, if he feels like you are not on his team, like you are waiting for him to make a mistake or you are overly critical he will hide from you. It can feel at times like the teenage years are full of conflict and frustration and anything but connection. However, if you make connection and relationship repair your priority many other things will fall into place.

We are going to talk about several ways to increase connected communication between you and your son. Including the following in Part I.

Setting your intention
The importance of respect
Using the power of love languages
In Part II of this post we will discuss maximizing playfulness and curiosity as well as apologies & the art of repair.

Setting your intention

Ask yourself this important question, “Is your intention to connect or to correct?” If you can define your parenting purpose or intention you can help meet your teenager’s vital needs, including stability, security, safety and guidance.

It is easy to fall into the trap of constantly correcting every annoying behavior that your son has and let’s be honest there are a lot of things you feel the need to correct. Table manners, social skills, waning motivation for homework, bad language, cleaning his room and the list goes on. Sometimes you may need to hold your tongue and resist the urge. Remember, connect before you correct. He will be much more responsive if you focus on connecting with him first.

I don’t just want you to just think about this right now, but also in the moment when you are responding to your son or when you are getting ready to have a conversation with him. What is your purpose or intention? Do you want to correct and manage your son or do you want to connect with and enjoy him?

Here is something for you to try. 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?

The importance of respect

There are some parents that demand respect from their teens and get really bent out of shape when they don’t get it, but they often treat their son disrespectfully. I think this is important because all teenage boys want to feel strong, competent and capable. Not only that, but most teens have a keen sense of right and wrong and they simply won’t give respect to any adult without it being earned. In other words, do what I say and not what I do will never work. How does this apply to communication? Well, the response you get from your son will change if you show him respect with your words, your tone of voice and your non-verbal communication.

The best of us parents fall into the trap of getting on the level of our immature and impulsive teens. You will surely build up the wall between the two of you if you resort to name calling, sarcasm and snarky, hurtful comebacks. It can be difficult to avoid when things get heated, but I urge you to focus on respectful communication with your son, treat him like a young adult and not like a child, even when his is acting like one.

Know and use his love language to find connection

This is one of the best ways to feel closer to your teenager. If you have not heard of this concept, it the basis of several books by Gary Chapman, including “The Five Love Languages of Teenagers” which I would recommend. I will expand on this topic even more when we talk about the power of love languages. Essentially the idea is that we all have certain ways that we best receive love and caring from other people.

The five love languages include physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service and quality time. Every teenager is different in terms of what they prefer. Your son may respond best to encouraging and positive words, such as I love you, I’m proud of you or I see you working hard. He may not want it in public, but a well-timed hug, pat on the back or even a friendly punch in the arm could help him feel closer to you. Sometimes a thoughtful gift will communicate that you love him and are paying attention, for example you do the research and buy him the long boarding wheels he has been wanting. Or, you do an act of service that gets your message across, such as doing his least favorite chore for him one day. I know what you are thinking, “I am always doing acts of service for him!” That may be true, but if this is his love language he will definitely appreciate your effort. Anything that is a sacrifice of time on your part will be a loving message.

I know that when I was a teenager some of my favorite memories are from spending quality time camping just with my Dad. Those hours driving in his 65′ El Camino, setting up camp and walking around the lake where just awesome for me. I would encourage you to think about how your son would best receive love and care from you and then make it your mission to speak that language. You can’t go wrong by expressing your love for him, both with and without words. Connection creates closeness and that opens the door for real conversation.

Here is one takeaway for you to apply to work towards more connected communication with your son.

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?

Why Is It So Hard To Talk To Teenage Boys?

Do Not Enter Sign

You may have asked yourself this question if you have ever tried to have a deep, emotional and meaningful conversation with your teenage son. Especially if the conversation is your idea and is on a topic that he is not super interested in, like chores, homework or being a contributing member of the family. Now, don’t get me wrong teenage boys can be philosophical, sensitive and profoundly wise at times. However, this is often not their default setting when talking to parents or authority figures.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why talking to your teenage son can feel like trying to break into a high security bank vault.

5 Ways To Fail When Talking To Your Teenager

Shaming teenagers never works

Non-shaming disclaimer: Ok, I have to say that we have all committed these parenting crimes. The purpose of this post is not to make you feel bad, but let you know you are in good company. These are the things we want to pay attention to NOT doing. Ok, glad we got that out of […]

The One Thing Everyone Struggles With

Family Communication

I think it is fair to say that many of the world’s problems revolve around difficulties with communication. It is hard for spouses to understand each other, hard for business leaders to agree, hard for governments to negotiate and of course it is hard for parents to talk to their teenagers.   I want to […]