By DR. LARRY MOSES
No one asked me but… I thought I would take a few minutes and share what I learned in the way of communicating with young people. I have accumulated this knowledge from raising three boys of my own and 31 years of working with teenagers. Communications between teenagers, parents and other adults is fairly limited. The average mother of a high school student converses with them for about 14 minutes a day. Much of this by texting. Actual parental eye contact is probably less than 2 minutes.
From experience I can say that parents say the dumbest things to their kids in the short period of conversation they have with them. When the child has upset the parent, the parent may very well say anything. I remember my mother saying “Do you want me to slap your face?” When my mother asked me that I always thought to myself “Yes, I got up this morning with the sole goal of having you slap my face.” However, my answer was always “No!” How can a kid react to the statement: “If I told you once, I have told you a million times not to exaggerate”? My father often asked: “Do you want me to knock you into next week?” The best answer to that question was always “No!” But the thought crossed my mind that would not be so bad if it caused me to miss that math exam scheduled for Friday.
Did your parent ever ask you “Just who do you think you are?” The kid has got to be thinking “I thought I was your kid, but maybe you have a different take on things”. When a kid comes home and says he/she has lost his cell phone, the parent’s first question is “Where did you lose it?” That is just silly. if he/she knew where they lost it, it would not be lost. The second question from the parent is “How could you be so dumb?” The only right answer for the child is genetics. Which brings on a parental reply of “Do not get smart with me.” “Okay, I guess I will be dumb with you.”
While we as parents need to think out what we say to our kids we also need to understand what the child is saying to us. When the child says “all right” he may mean “don’t bother me,” or he may mean “I deeply resent the authority you have over me, but I acknowledge it and will take out your garbage,” or he may mean “Out of affection and respect for your age, I will take out your garbage.” Or it may simply mean, “Okay I will do as you ask.”
When the child answers any demand with “great”, depending on the tone of the delivery, it can mean great, not that again, or you have ruined by life.” ‘Sure”, can mean “That’s just what I would expect from an old person, or you don’t know what you are talking about, or you have ruined my life.” Great, emphasized with as door slam, sure, accompanied with a foot stomp, and yeah, combined with a quick turn of the head can all mean you have ruined my life. Oh! With a rise at the end means this is going to cost you money. Examples are: Oh! I lost my retainer. Oh! I lost my Chrome book.
“I have cleaned by room” means “the mess that was in the middle of the floor is now under the bed”. “Everyone is wearing it” means that “Madonna was wearing it in her latest video and I must be the first in school to wear it too or you will be considered slugs as parents”. “It is not too cold out means I lost my jacket.”
Answers to questions about the school day are always informative if you can translate what the child has said. “Okay” means don’t ask. When you ask what did you do in school today and your child answers nothing it may be the only true answer you will ever receive. When I was at Bonanza High School, I taught my students, when their parents ask about how the school day was to reply “In Mr. Moses’ class today, I had the single most significant learning experience of my life and Mr. Moses deserves a raise.”
When you ask your child, “do you have any homework?” The answer could be “I did it at school” which means “I pretended to do it at school. Why should I now pretend to do it at home?” If the answer is “I don’t have any homework,” the child means “I forgot my book”. If the child replies “my teacher never gives homework” the student really means “I lost my book”. “I don’t know when it’s due” means “it’s due tomorrow”. “Can you help me?” Means “it was due yesterday.” “I’ll take care of it” means “I am willing to pretend to take this seriously if you will pretend to believe me.”
When the child replies “that is not how it is done now” or “you don’t understand” he means absolutely nothing these answers are merely ploys to make you feel bad about how old you are. “Whatever” translates to why are you still talking when it is obvious to even the most casual observer that I have stopped listening.
Thought of the week… When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang up my first painting on the refrigerator, and I wanted to paint another one. When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I thought it was good to be kind to animals. When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I knew that little things are special things. When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I believed there is a God I could always talk to. When you thought I wasn’t looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight, and I felt loved. When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be. When you thought I wasn’t looking, I LOOKED… and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.
– Author Unknown