Listening Big to Your TeenDecember 17, 2009
Would your teen say you’re a good listener? Be honest. Today, Christian counselor Rick Horne helps parents to become better communicators with their teens by listening for what their teens say they don’t want, as well as what they want.
Would your teen say you’re a good listener? Be honest. Today, Christian counselor Rick Horne helps parents to become better communicators with their teens by listening for what their teens say they don’t want, as well as what they want.
Listening Big to Your Teen
Rick: If you don’t want to change you don’t have to. I would like you to – I love you, and I think it’s in your best interest, but you don’t have to change if you don’t want to. Now, I have to by God’s command – I have to bring consequences to make change attractive so I’ll do that because I love you. This is an extremely respectful approach to communicating with our kids when they are angry.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, December 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to hear today from Rick Horne a number of different ways that we can connect with angry teens – ways that work.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us. You know our listeners have had a chance to hear something this week that they don’t normally get a chance to hear, and that’s you acting like a teenager. Well, it’s kind of fun for you to dive right in there, and assume the persona of one of your children. You had plenty of experience, plenty of memories to draw on to assume that role didn’t you?
Dennis: I really did – you know with six children. But, our guest on today’s program had six children as well. Rick Horne joins us on FamilyLife Today – Rick welcome back!
Rick: Thank you it’s good to be here.
Dennis: Really as I look at your book: Get Outta My Face as you talk about how to have a biblical approach to dealing with your kids anger – that’s really what you talked about here is finding a way around four big ideas that you have in your book to get in your child’s corner, and to help them.
I just want to give a sneak peek to our listeners. The four big ideas are listen big, clarify narrow, look wide, and plan small.
Bob: Now, we need to unpack that for folks so listen big means you start off by trying to hear what is going on in your teenager’s heart?
Rick: What you’re trying to listen for is what they don’t want. You want to listen – what do you not want because that’s where you’re going to have the opportunity to let them unpack the pain that they’re feeling, the experience and the negatives that they are feeling. I don’t want disapproval. I don’t want restriction. I don’t want your disrespect. I don’t want you barging into my bedroom all the time invading my privacy.
Bob: I don’t want you meddling trying to control my life.
Rick: That’s right. I don’t want you talking about my life to other people at church. Then here’s where you can feedback or echo back to the student – to your son or daughter exactly what kind of emotions that all creates. That really is oppressive, that really is uncomfortable – if I had somebody always on my case I would feel that way, too.
Dennis: You know earlier we role-played with me being a teenager, and you kind of unpacked it, and showed our listeners how you do that. Let’s make Bob a teenager today, and I want you to demonstrate to our listeners how you would do that with Bob. Let’s say it’s over him missing curfew – all right?
Bob: Okay – so I’ve come home – it’s a half an hour late.
Dennis: Repeatedly you’ve come home a half an hour late.
Bob: Now you’re piling on!
That’s what you’re doing – you always do this!
Dennis: The facts are the facts!
Rick: Always - that is a good word – always!
Bob: So, okay so it’s been repeatedly, and it’s now the next morning and you’re sitting down, and you’re saying you came in late last night. I’ll let you play your part – okay?
Rick: Okay - so you did – you came in late last evening.
Bob: Well, yes I was a little late but you know we got hung up with some stuff, and I didn’t want to call you because I figured you guys were asleep.
Rick: Now, part of the consequences that come your way when this happens – what usually does occur?
Bob: Well, you guys usually come up with some kind of restriction like you won’t let me do the computer for a month or you come up with some job I have to do. I don’t see what the big deal is because I was a half an hour late?
Rick: It really makes you feel like we’re making a mountain out of a molehill?
Bob: Yes! I mean I can’t understand why this is such a big deal for you guys?
Rick: It seems like it’s irrational!
Bob: What’s the big deal between coming in at midnight or coming in at 12:30?
Rick: It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to you at all?
Bob: Thirty minutes – what’s the big deal?
Rick: It seems like it’s really not something that should be a rule!
Dennis: There’s a self-righteous look on Bob’s face right now that could melt an iceberg.
Bob: What you’re doing, and I want to break in here, because what you’re doing is you’re trying to say – yes you want the son or daughter to understand – I understand how this makes you feel.
Rick: That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to say I want to understand how this is making you feel.
Dennis: Rick – noticing what you’re doing here even though you’ve understood what he’s feeling you’re not taking his side necessarily in agreeing that it’s right.
Rick: That’s right – what I’m doing is simply trying to tune into what Bob’s experience is.
Bob: This is what you call listen big?
Rick: Listening big because what I’m trying to listen for is what you don’t want – okay? What you don’t want is the pain, and the consequences. The things that are hurting you—the pinching, the restriction, the lack of freedom. That’s what you don’t want. I want to hear that, and I want to echo that back to you, and you know when I was your age Bob I didn’t want those things either. That is really uncomfortable!
Bob: Yes, so can we just lighten up?
Rick: Well, God does put responsibilities on my back as a dad, but let me ask you a question – okay? Can I change you?
Bob: Well, no!
Bob: Only I can change me!
Rick: That’s right, and I can’t change you, and I want you to know that I respect the fact that you want some of those things. Those qualities of wanting freedom, wanting maturity – it sounds to me like that’s something that you’re wanting? You don’t want restriction!
Bob: Yes, I think I am old enough. I think I am mature enough that I ought to be able to decide when I can come in.
Rick: To be treated with respect and to be treated in a way that gives you freedom and recognizes you as a young adult is something that you really want from your parents.
Bob: Now, you’re trying to move from listening big to clarifying narrow at this point?
Rick: I am! I am!
Bob: So explain the idea of clarify narrow – what are you doing?
Rick: What I’m doing is I’m trying to clarify – number one I’m trying to clarify what he does want because I found out what Bob doesn’t want. Now what I’m trying to do is say: So what you really want is to be treated respectfully, to be treated like a young adult, to be trusted, to be given freedom. Those are great things to want, and I commend the maturity that you even see that. There are some kids that just wrap themselves up in their bitterness, and they never really think about the things that they want so I respect that. The reason you want those things is because God’s hardwired them into you, and I just respect that.
Rick: Let me ask you a question.
Rick: Has there been a time that you can think of in the past year when you’ve been given freedom?
Dennis: Now, you move into the next phase which is look wide – helping the young person reflect back on what does feel good, and where they felt rewarded?
Rick: Places where the things that they want they actually received – other experiences.
Bob: So, I would say well in the area of curfew – no - you guys have been really rigid about this 12:00 thing – so no I haven’t seen any flexing on that at all.
Rick: How about in any other area of your life? Is there any other area where I hear what you’re saying there, and I know that’s uncomfortable – but is there any other area that you have been given freedom, and you’ve felt that freedom?
Bob: I feel like you treat me like a kid all the time!
Rick: Is there any place that you’ve been allowed to go to be with some of your friend’s overnight?
Bob: Well, yes – but!
Rick: Have there been others that we haven’t allowed you to go to be with?
Bob: Okay – yes!
Rick: Okay so what do you think has made the difference between the ones that we allowed you to go with, and the ones that we didn’t?
Bob: You let me go with the people you like, and you won’t let me go with the people you don’t like.
Rick: You’re playing it really hard here Bob!
Dennis: This is why if you met Mrs. Lepine her eyes would be rolling back right now!
Bob: The reality is our kids are pretty skilled at some of this so we’d better know.
Rick: They are, and if they’re resistant it’s because I’m doing exactly what you said. I’m starting to move from thinking about what you want to what I want. Let me ask you a question a little differently: Is there any place in your life Bob maybe not here at home at all – as your dad I’m disappointed that’s the way I’ve communicated to you because I want you to feel respected, and I want you to feel like you have some freedom but is there any place at all where you have experienced a sense of freedom and respect?
Bob: Uh huh – Mr. Edelman at school!
Rick: Okay – tell me about that!
Bob: Well, he treats all of us like adults.
Rick: How does he treat you that way?
Bob: We know what we have to do but he gives us flexibility, and I was late on this paper, and he said, “Okay that’s no big deal.” He understood why I was late and he let that slide, and in the Science lab he lets us go and check stuff out and handle things.
Rick: So, what are you doing there that’s making him give you that kind of freedom?
Bob: Well, he just treats us all like adults.
Rick: Well, now that may be but you’re doing something because there are some students he doesn’t trust.
Bob: Well, okay – yes!
Rick: So, you’re doing something that is showing that you’re trustworthy – that he can give you that freedom. What are you doing?
Bob: I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
Rick: Okay so by doing what you’re supposed to be doing like getting assignments in on-time for the most part being respectful in class, putting away the supplies, or getting them out, working cooperatively in class – by doing those things you’re teaching him that you can be trusted.
Bob: Well, he just chills out.
Rick: Now, you can’t blame him. You’re the one who’s teaching your teacher that you can be trusted – you’re making good decisions, and because of your good decisions he’s giving you freedom.
Bob: But he’s more relaxed than you guys are!
Rick: That may be but it’s what you’re doing that’s teaching him that you can be trusted.
Dennis: Okay, so you’ve shown us how to look back. This last one of plan small how would you apply that in the situation with Bob?
Rick: Well, what I would do is there’s a little transition in there. What I have to say is: I wonder how what you’re doing in school to teach Mr. so and so that you’re responsible could work here in our home? What could you do to teach us because we want you to have freedom, but we don’t want to give you freedom that we think is going to hurt you. So, what could you do to teach us that we could trust your judgment?
Bob: I don’t know – you tell me!
Rick: Well, you think about it – where are the restrictions?
Bob: Well, around curfew.
Rick: Okay – so if you showed us around curfew that you could be trusted to use good judgment is it possible that if we really want you to have freedom that we’ll find in time that standard change?
Bob: Well, I don’t know – let me ask you: Is there any way I’m going to get a curfew that’s past midnight while I’m still in high school?
Dennis: To that point, I think at this point you could say as a parent, “You know generally by the time you’re a senior we try to move with all of our children toward the last semester in your senior year of you tell us where you’re going to be, but you can come home whenever you come home.”
Bob: You let the reins out a little bit?
Dennis: Yes, because they’re going to be free.
Rick: Sure – that’s what going to happen next year in college.
Dennis: Yes, in six months they’re going to be on their own. I’d rather them test the freedom while they’re still at the house – where their mom and I can observe their behavior, and do a little coaching perhaps not a lot, but a little. So, at this point you might hold a carrot out there for Bob to say, “You know, if you’d like that kind of freedom you really need to begin to exhibit some responsibility today in terms of meeting the curfews your Mom and I are setting for you.” Right?
Rick: That’s exactly the direction but I would want that to come from Bob. In other words I want the plan to come from him rather than from me. What can you do to teach us over the next three months that you can be trusted even with more time? Or without a curfew what could you do to teach us?
Bob: Well, I guess I could come home on time for like a period of time.
Rick: Okay, and if we’re really wanting to see would that communicate trust? Would that communicate responsibility on your part?
Bob: I guess – would it?
Rick: I think it would – yes – we would see it that way. So, that’s what I mean by planning small – you pick one thing. There might be a hundred things. You know I see this with kids – well, she’s easier than, or but it’s more fun in that class so I do the work.
Bob: She trusts me or whatever else.
Rick: Well, that may be but you’re doing something to earn the trust. You’re doing something to succeed in the class. Well, yes but she makes it fun. Yes I hear that but you’re doing something – what are you doing?
That’s finding an exception – that’s the looking wide for something that is already working. Then what you do is you hypothesize with them, and say “So, what could you do to teach me the same thing that could give you what you want?”
Bob: So the parent who says okay I want to try this – I want to try to listen big, and clarify narrow, and look wide, and plan small. I think I hear what you’re saying, and I may need some more practice at this because this is an acquired skill for a parent. But, they try to do it – they try to listen big, and what they hear is silence. They’re not getting any response. They’re just getting a passive, aggressive kind of a thing.
So, they say, “Tell me how you’re feeling,” and the teenager says, “I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about this at all because you guys always twist what I say I’m not going to talk about it.” What does a parent do in that situation?
Rick: Part of the way we approach our kids is going to have an awful lot to do with their response to us. I address this in the first few chapters when I talk about the stance that we have. This is not a cure all, and I don’t intend the strategies that I’m trying to give here to be a silver bullet.
Dennis: Yes, it’s not like it’s a formula.
Bob: Do this and it’ll always work?!
Dennis: Yes, exactly it does work but it’s not like the law of gravity that works every time.
Rick: Usually it’s the way God’s made life to work – right? The point is the principles. This is an extremely respectful approach to communicating with our kids when they’re angry. The reason it’s respectful is because number one it affirms the fact that I’m going to try to listen to what you want. I’m going to respect the fact that you are a separate person, and you have your own wants. Number two I can’t change you. Number three you don’t have to change if you don’t want to. This is hard for parents to hear.
Dennis: Unpack that a little bit because you share that in the book. You’re giving the child the freedom to stay in their own mud puddle and be irresponsible.
Rick: We’ll not exactly – that sounds that way at first, but what I’m saying to them is: “Now God tells me as a parent I have to hold you accountable but I also recognize the fact that I can’t change you. You are your own person so if you don’t want to change you don’t have to. I would like you to – I love you, and I think it’s in your best interest, but you don’t have to change if you don’t want to.”
Now, I have to by God’s command – I have to bring consequences in you to make change attractive so I’ll do that because I love you.
Bob: You have to put boundaries around your behavior so you won’t become self destructive
Rick: That’s right – that’s exactly right!
Dennis: Well, if the child’s an in-house prodigal where they’re abusive to their other siblings or to their mother at some point you may have to put boundaries around those relationships too, and it can get so rough and tough by the time they’re a senior…
Rick: That they may not be able to be in the house.
Rick: In can be that way!
Bob: Have you seen that happen with families?
Rick: I’ve lived with that. One of my six children was in exactly that set of circumstances. The things that worked with our other four kids – Betty and I thought we had it fine together with four wonderful kids as we brought them up, and then number five came along. Now, he made it real clear that he had a will, and he was going to do what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it. It is heart wrenching, and it is heart breaking but this is also where being part of the community of God’s people is so very important for your own support, and for your own strength.
But, you must hold them accountable, and when you have God’s people – now by having these brother’s and sister’s in our basement, in our rec. room, and with Jed my son sitting there, and these folks in his face, and they’re saying, “Jed – you do this, and here’s where it’s going to go. You do this you’re going to be out of here.”
Dennis: So, it was an intervention of sorts?
Rick: It was very much so, and it was repeated. I’m just highlighting the fact of having the church body, as part of your community of support is so very, very important for you.
Bob: But, you got to a point with him where you had to say, “You can’t stay in the house”?
Rick: That’s exactly right – we did! That was costly in a lot of different ways, and heart wrenching, and heart breaking as you can imagine. That was when he was 15, and so there are a number of Christian facilities, and Christian resources.
At one point we had to have the police come to our home because he was threatening to hurt himself with a knife. He was so angry, and so the police came, and it was really quite interesting: He lived on the third floor. He met them on the second floor very calm, and very in control, but they took him off to the psych unit of a local hospital, and I followed.
Just to take him there to be interviewed by the psychiatrist was really interesting because in the Lord’s providence – this is what we wanted to happen because he needed to see where his behavior was taking him. When we had this one confrontation - this intervention that we described he knew that he had - that is the church was there, and the people – the brothers said, “Jed – you can’t live here like this – you have two options – you either go to the facility in Vermont, or you go to the psych unit – which do you want?” So, there are your options!
Dennis: Legally you could say that because he was under the age of 18!
Rick: That’s correct – that’s correct.
Bob: You know as you’re describing that story Dennis I’m thinking back to the conversation we had a few years ago with Billy Graham’s grandson.
Dennis: I was thinking about that same thing Bob.
Bob: Tullian Tchividjian who had almost the exact same situation at the age of 15 – angry – his parents had to make the hard decision to say, “You can’t live here.”
Rick: Oh, it’s heart wrenching – it’s heart wrenching.
Dennis: Police came and took him away.
Bob: The good news is: Today Tullian is the senior pastor at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and is leading God’s people. I mean there is redemption that happens in the midst of these situations.
Rick: That’s what’s exciting too because we’re seeing some of that same spiritual pilgrimage that turned in Jed – he’s 21 – he’s in the Army and he incidentally to his credit as I was writing this book, and I make reference to a few of the instances. I wrote to him, and asked permission and he wrote back and said, “Dad, if it will help anybody else please write it – include it.” He said, “You feel free to use it!”
Dennis: You know I like where we’re ending our broadcast today because there are parent’s who are listening to us right now who think they have it all wired together but someday they may be facing an in-house prodigal.
I want to tell you – you can do everything to the best of your ability – children, and young people do have their own choices they don’t have to respond to you – they don’t have to respond to God, but this is the cool thing about the gospel – it is a gospel of grace. The gospel of grace redeemed me – took me as a broken person, and is still in the process of working through the cracks in the pot that are there.
The thing I like about your book Get Outta My Face is that it’s not just counsel, but it’s biblical counsel – it’s anchored in scripture so people can trust the counsel you’re giving to them.
Bob, I think this is going to be increasingly important, as America becomes more of a post-Christian nation we need to find our authority as parents. It’s in books like this, and ultimately in the scripture that we point people here everyday on FamilyLife Today.
Bob: The reality is we all need help – right? I mean as we go through this process with our teens we need counsel, we need some expert advice. I think Rick has provided that not only here today, but in the book that he’s written called: Get Outta My Face which we have in our FamilyLife Today resource center.
I want to encourage you to go to FamilyLifeToday.com – there’s more information about the book on-line. You can order it from us on the website if you’d like, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 F as in “family L as in “life and then the word TODAY. Again the website is FamilyLifeToday.com – get in touch with us, and we’ll make arrangements to send a copy of the book your direction.
I want to take just a minute here before we’re done and just remind you of a conviction we have here at FamilyLife in the area of financial giving. We believe that your first priority when it comes time to give money – the first place you ought to look to give is your local church – that ought to be your first giving priority. If you’re going to do anything to support a ministry like FamilyLife or other ministries it ought to be above and beyond whatever you’re already doing to help support your local church. I hope that’s the case with most of our listeners – now we do hope that some of our listeners will be able to make a year-end contribution to FamilyLife, and help support us without taking anything away from what you’re already doing with your local church.
We’ve had some friends of the ministry who have come to us recently, and they have said, “That they would like to match every donation we receive during the month of December on a dollar for dollar basis up to a total of $1,250,000.” That’s the largest year-end matching gift opportunity we’ve ever had as a ministry. If we’re going to take full advantage of it then we need as many listeners as possible to make a year-end contribution. So, if that’s something you might be able to do can I encourage you to go to our website FamilyLifeToday.com or to call 1-800-FLTODAY?
Either make your donation on-line or make your donation over the phone, and again just know that your donation is being matched dollar for dollar. So, whatever you give they’re going to match that gift up to a total of $1,250,000. I just want to say, Thanks in advance to those of you who are able to make a year-end donation, and say thanks again to those folks who provided the matching gift fund for us during the month of December.
We hope you’ll be back with us tomorrow. Rick Horne is going to be here again. We’re going to continue talking about how we raise teenagers even through those outbursts of anger that intermittently appear during the teen years. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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