LEGACYouth: 3 Ways to Better Communicate with Your Parents

A parental relationship is one of the greatest gifts we're given in this lifetime; unfortunately, it's one of the easiest to take for granted as well. While reasons may vary, no question, the majority of youth-parent dysfunctions feature some sort of breakdown in communication. The big question is: what's really driving it? Certainly, like any stronghold, there are roots feeding the heart of the issue...but though identifying them can feel like an insurmountable challenge, the process is undoubtedly freeing when fully dialed into.

What this post will seek to do is give credible, practical solutions on how young people can better communication  with their parents for more holistic relational improvement.

1)      Be quick to listen, slow to speak…

Being at odds with your parents is never fun; however, if you think about it, what drives a disagreement has more to do with a fear of being misunderstood than a difference in perspective.

Case and point: whenever I’d disagree with my parents, especially when I was younger, the spark would often come in the form of fear, whether it was a fear of disappointing (not meeting their standards/not being in right standing), a fear of misinterpretation and/or a fear of punishment. In almost every case, my greatest concern centered on a ‘what if’ (i.e. what if my parents don’t understand, what if there’s no reconciliation, what if they stop trusting me…I could go on).

However, as I’ve mentioned before, fear doesn’t get us anywhere, considering it’s a paralyzing stronghold, a toleration of pride…not to mention it’s the exact opposite of love and the greatest “self-ed” concept known to man.

Thus, when we talk about a fear of being misunderstood, especially with respect to our parents, we find it’s human nature to speak out…to “will” our point across at all costs in hope to find a common ground. The problem is we were never created to remedy an argument in this way (i.e. forced, unprocessed speech). Contrarily, we were designed to be other-centered (see Philippians 2:3-4) and to yield to one another in word and in action. So when we fear being misunderstood and blast out as a result, we risk creating a defensive, accusatory environment…counterintuitive to our original design.  

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When we look at the book of James, we find powerful solutions (as well as metaphors/illustrations) to the question of, “How do we bridge the communication divide with those in authority?” But perhaps none speak so potently as the following trio: “quick to hear”, “slow to speak”, “slow to anger”.

How does this apply to our parents, you might ask? Well, for starters, abiding by these themes gives God a significant footstool into the interaction. Yes, it may take time for the personal wrinkles to iron out, especially if bad communicational habits have been fostered. Yet, if you are willing to go all in on James’ challenge, you’ll ultimately defuse Satan’s ability to perpetuate disunity, even if you come from an abusive background. Sprinkle in a little Colossians 4:6 (“Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, makes it savory, and keeps it from corrupting” (Matthew Henry Commentary) and suddenly you’re in prime position to experience relational healing/improvement with your parents.

2)      …but still say what you need to say

Although this is a tangent off the prior point, I wanted to give it separate attention since it’s often underrated. When it comes to being “slow to speak”, it’s important to have some sort of game-plan established, considering a “listen first” approach is contradictory to the flesh. For example, when my wife was a teenager, whenever she had arguments with her parents, she found it helpful to hear her parents out first and then write out her feelings in a post-processing letter (with the intentional of giving the letter to her parents at the right time). This “self-editing” practice ultimately allowed their relationship to strengthen, since it detached offense from the communication. Furthermore, by using “I statements” instead of “you statements” (i.e. “I feel uncomfortable when…” versus “why did you ______”), she was able to express appreciation and encouragement in addition to her side of the story.

You see…far too often, if young people aren’t blaring hurt out to their parents/authorities, then they’re harboring it in. Granted, some will do the “write thing” (#punintended) and seek to find clarity when chaos strikes; however, if pain and/or strongholds are only dealt with by “Dear diary…”, then the root of the issue is constantly avoided…not to mention emotions are continually bottled up along with the opportunity to find agreement…peace…you get the picture.

Remember…the truth must come out at some point. You may think silence is the same as self-control. You may assume holding it in/a lack of fighting is equal to victory; however, when we consider what David says in Psalm 19:14 and 141:3, where he’s basically saying, “Lord, take control of what I say”…we discover how real control is giving God control to help us live in control. See the difference?1

In short, truth doesn’t deny dialogue; it initiates it...at the right time. Thus, if you find yourself in the heat of a tense feud, pursue quiet time with God first, then once truth has replaced twilight, find your parents and actually talk to them (bonus points if you do this without an iPhone/headphones, etc.).

After all, it’s not like you have anything to lose when you seek to cut tension with humility, while also setting yourself free from potential guilt at the same time.

Just sayin’…

3)      Believe the best

Whenever I'd struggle to see eye-to-eye with my parents, what deterred me from distrust more than anything was the belief they had my best in mind…and that my attitude with respect to them, in large part, reflected my attitude to God. Of course, my parents (like your parents) are far from infallible; however, I found giving them the benefit of the doubt was always the better move, even when I had a hard time believing their intentions.

Like me, there may be times when you question your parent’s discernment and disagree with their final calls; however, if you’re quick to render their wisdom obsolete, then you'll risk extending such cynicism to other authorities who may also have your best in mind. 
At the end of the day, you got to remember: your parents want what’s best for you...just like God does. Will they slip up every now and then? Absolutely. But even when this happens, it doesn’t mean they’re not pursuing God’s best for you. So why not pray into the situation, tap into the heart of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, and see where God takes it as opposed to harvesting resentment?

Again…just sayin’…

Footnotes

1)      i.e. how one approach is passive-aggressive and the other is active-aggressive

Photo creds: zg12.wikispaces.com, rentscouter.com

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