Relating to teens today requires more than giving them a list of do's and don'ts. Many teens are emotionally detached because of difficult domestic and social issues. As a result, some of them have hidden behind the masks of social aggression and others behind attitudes of apathy and passivity. However, there are great opportunities to win "lost" teens every single day. The use of the term "win" here alludes to making a quality connections that you may be able to influence their attitudes and actions. Here are five things that you can do to win teens in your home and community!
Take an Interest in Them
Remember that interest always precedes instruction.It's easy to authoratatively give orders to teens. After all, "you've been there and done that". However, teens long for relationship over redundant reminders of what's right and wrong. Why not sacrifice a Saturday from what interests you and "go to their world"! Walk the mall with them, take them to their favorite eating spot or to see that "can't miss" new movie! Showing a genuine interest by giving them a few hours of your time makes it easier to win them.
Invest in Them
Whether it's a teen in your household or one in your neighborhood, make the time to listen to them. They have many feelings and fears that often go unheard. Feeling unheard and/or ignored is a source of frustration to them. These feelings of frustration often lead to much of the risky, rude and even rowdy behaviors that we witness in teens today. Therefore, "giving teens your ear" is one of the most validating gifts that you can give to them. The wise investment of listening to teens can produce a harvest of dialogue and peace in our homes and communities. If you listen to them for an hour...they will listen to you for the rest of their lives.
Show an interest in them that exceeds causal, in passing communication. Once in a while invite them into your "world". Set a part time for them to join you for dinner (if they aren't family), take them to a worship service with you, bring them to your family gathering or even take them to a "shadow day" on your job. Significant acts like these create a sense of belonging in teens who are struggling with detachment and marginalization. Take note of the "loners" and invite them into your world of love and acceptance. They are grateful whenever a concerned, trusted adult says, "why don't you come with me".
Ask teens questions about what's important in life. Ask them about grades, athletics and community service to name a few. Locate their priorities and then work hard to inspire them to excel. Take them to the library for study time with a promise of their favorite meal afterwards. Take them to a college, semi-pro or professional game to expose them to the heard work of next level athletes. Take them to serve elderly, disabled and impoverished individuals (even if they themselves are impoverished) that they may learn the value of selfless service.
Teens yearn for instruction and direction. However, they respond best to those whom they perceive to genuinely care about them. When you have laid the foundation of showing a consistent interest in them it becomes easier for you to correct and challenge them. In fact teens welcome the counsel and constructive criticism of adults that care. Remember that interest precedes instruction. Make the connection with them and then give directions to them!