As we referenced in Part 1, asking the right questions is key to deepening your relationship with your teen. Glennon Doyle Melton explains why this is significant: “It’s the thought behind them that the receiver really FEELS. We have to know the receiver to give the right gift and to ask the right question. . . . Generic gifts and questions are all right, but personal gifts and questions feel better. Love is specific, I think. It’s an art. The more attention and time you give to your questions, the more beautiful the answers become.”
While the most significant gifts any of us receive aren’t demanding, obligatory, or generic, there are a few things that they usually are.
Gifts Are Carefully Packaged
The gift may be the same, but when it’s wrapped in a crumpled brown bag sitting on the counter when they get home and you turn around just long enough to mention that it’s there and for your teen, it just won’t come across the same as a brightly colored package complete with ribbons and bows that’s handed to them with a smile. Even if it isn’t your daughter’s favorite color scheme or your son thinks the ribbons look too girlie, they will notice the fact that you put time and effort into the gift.
Sometimes we can “wrap” our love-gift questions in creative ways, like writing them on a chalkboard or texting them, instead. Sometimes they can sound silly, like asking what kind of animal they’d like to be or the character in a cartoon or movie with which they can identify — or even envy.
Gifts Are To Be Received
Now, that may sound kind of obvious, but hear me out. Your gift is the question, not instructions on what the best answer should be, or what your answer would be. This is not an added requirement for your teen, but a gift. If they don’t want to open it until later, or their answer reveals a problem, take time to listen without speaking — and especially without making a judgment (James 1:9). In fact, psychologists advocate a 5-to-1 listen-to-talk ratio.
Perhaps your teen is only realizing his own perceptions as he voices them to you. Learning to “think out loud” and evaluate one’s own self-talk is an important skill, and you don’t want to impede your teen’s maturity by disrupting the process prematurely.
Gifts Are Part of Relationships
While listening is part of making a question a gift of love, your teen’s answer doesn’t have to end the conversation. Hopefully, it can be a beginning. Follow-up questions such as “Do you think your teacher knows you felt that way when she called on you?” or “If you were the new girl, what do you think you’d want people to say to you?” can help your teen develop empathy for others, as well as continue toward self-discovery.
Feel free to bring Scripture into it as well, not as a “period to end the conversation,” but as a means of deepening it and bringing the most significant Third Person into the relationship.
Continue reading with Part 3.