Are you tired of the same “How was your day?” with a shrug as an answer? If so, it’s time to ramp up the conversation skills! Why do kids usually fail to respond in meaningful ways to such questions? According to Glennon Doyle Melton, it’s because “they don’t know. Their day was lots of things.” Melton, by contrast, sees questions as gifts of love. Seeing questions as love-gifts can help parents form them appropriately. We’ll start by looking at what gifts aren’t — or shouldn’t be.
Gifts Aren’t Demanding
There is certainly a time for parental inquisition and requiring details about whereabouts or plans. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about using conversation to bless your teen. Think about the gifts you’ve appreciated most. They were likely things you could really use or things you wouldn’t — or couldn’t — buy for yourself. By giving our teens thoughtful questions, we’re offering them something they can’t quite give themselves, or at least not yet.
As adolescents progress through the coming-of-age years, they grow in their ability to understand themselves. While narcissistic tendencies can become problematic, the desire for self-discovery is natural and healthy. As you show interest in your teen and ask questions that help him or her evaluate their own perceptions and emotions, you’re empowering them in their journey toward maturity.
Gifts Aren’t Obligatory
In our culture of obligatory gift-giving and commercialization of holidays, we might be tempted to overlook the fact that a truly meaningful gift is one that is not given out of necessity or compulsion. Just as God wants us to give to Him cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7), isn’t that how we really want to receive gifts from others? When we ask the same thoughtless questions, day after day, without creativity or enthusiasm, those questions aren’t likely to come across as gifts.
Gifts Aren’t Generic
What makes a good gift for someone? That question is so generic that you probably don’t know how to answer it, except to say that it depends who that someone is. And that’s precisely the point. The idea behind the “Golden Rule” seems to be the idea of doing for others what you would want them to do for you if you were them (Matthew 7:12). That requires you to know them. Of course, asking thoughtful questions (or giving love-gifts to others) can help you get to know your teen, enabling you to give even more personally meaningful questions in the future.
Melton offers a few basic suggestions that you can tailor to your teen:
• When did you feel loved today?
• What did I say that made you feel unnoticed?
• What can I do to help you right now?
• Were there any times you felt proud of yourself today?
• What’s going really well with your soccer team now?
• How did you feel during your spelling test?
• What did you say to the new girl when you all went out to recess?
• Did you feel lonely at all today?
Continue reading with Part 2.