Looking back at many conversations with my teenage son, I began to see how often he would tell me something about his day. However, I don’t think I was listening to him very much then, rather I would respond by telling him how I would handle it or how I feel about it. Maybe I would ask one or two questions but it was with the intent of seeing what advice I could give him. My focus was on me, and my job as his mother. What I was teaching him was how to handle life from my perspective. What I should have been doing was helping him develop his own critical thinking skills so he could handle life from his perspective. Certainly he needed guidance and help, but in truth I was providing that by example, as he watched how I handled life and responded to things. What I was teaching him in these conversations, however, was how to tell others what to do, rather than how to work through a challenge and use his own thinking skills.
Not surprisingly, he wasn't very receptive to my unsolicited advice. Maybe if he had asked for it, then he would have wanted to hear what I said. Of course our teens need input and advice but I wasn't giving him the opportunity to ask for it. This asking for input is, in itself, a lesson for teens to learn and part of what we, as parents, can help encourage. What if I had asked questions like: "Have you decided how you are going to handle this situation?" "What about that made you angry?" "Why do you think that will work"? This interaction would have helped me to learn much more about his thinking and reasoning. Then, I could have responded with questions to prod his thinking and give him the opportunity to ask for my thoughts, if he wanted them.