From new book: Joy-Filled Parenting with Teens–Here is another tip on changes: helpful words and pleasant faces.
When we encounter a problem with our teens, a good way to practice seeing their heart is to remember to use words something like these: “You aren’t acting like yourself right now. What’s going on? How can I help?” These words help teens feel more understood and less corrected or attacked.
Noticing that our teen is not acting like him or herself instead of correcting or fussing at them takes the edge off of our bumps. It feels more caring and affirms identity. It lessens the likelihood of getting defensive. It gives us an opportunity to model the new relational skills and leaves a door open for dialogue.
As we introduce these new relational skills into the family, it’s good to practice them patiently. If spending quality time with a teen has not been normal or frequent, when possible begin taking the teen out to lunch or a movie, something that interests them. It’s important for parents to show interest in what they like, even if it’s boring to the parent. One of the best tips I’ve heard from Shawnda was when she told us that Jesus had shown her something to do when Trey wanted to talk about trucks and engines. We saw that story in Chapter Two, but I want to repeat part of it here because it’s so life-changing.
Picturing is Helpful
While Trey was talking to me about trucks and engines, I would synchronize my face with his, whether it was happy or intense or frustrated. This helped me to stay in the present and be engaged without leaving him feeling as if I wasn’t interested. I also pictured Trey as he was around the age of four, cute and adorable. I believe these good thoughts showed up on my face.
Teens Become Like the Faces Around Them
In our studies of brain development we have talked about an infant becoming like the faces he beholds. Shawnda’s story reminds us that it remains just as important during the teen and adult years. None of us ever get over needing to be seen “through Heaven’s eyes.” Teens learn a “new” (older) identity from the faces which are around them now. Faces communicate whether we are glad, or not glad, to be with someone. Lena and James also think good thoughts and delightful memories when they synchronize and build joy with their teens. It’s all non-verbal, showing up in eyes and on faces. And these parents are finding that joy works.
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