Brick #2: Missing the point. Because I had an agenda, I never allowed Amy to explain. I jumped to conclusions about her and John. In any conversation involving conflict, both people have some responsibility for the strained relationship.
The point isn't who is right or wrong; the point is the relationship. The only one who is 100 percent right all the time is God. Speaking the truth in love means we must keep the friendship intact so we can communicate God's truth regarding a particular situation (see Eph. 4:15).
Brick #3: Misinterpreting the words. You may have the facts but misunderstand what they mean. Your teen needs to interpret for you. Never assume anything. It's better for your teen to think you are dense than for you to misinterpret what's being said.
Driving Amy away from me drove her into a relationship with John. I had misinterpreted their relationship. He was just a passing curiosity in Amy's life. But the things I didn't do for her, he did. I didn't listen; he did. I didn't understand her feelings; he did. I didn't let her explain herself; he did. I didn't make myself available to her; he did.
Guard your friendship with your teen. No matter how right you may be, without friendship you won't be able to share truth with your teen.
Brick #4: Missing the heart. When we miscommunicate, we miss the heart of our teen. My focus was on how Amy and John looked and how that would make me look.
Church members thought I was a great youth minister and wise counselor, but what good were their opinions if I couldn't help my own child? In miscommunicating with Amy, I missed her heart concerning John--and me, for that matter. I also missed her heart for God because I focused on outward appearances.
Brick #5: Misusing words. When we abuse words, we communicate death, especially when we use:
**Degrading words such as "stupid," "dumb" and "ugly."
**Words that inflict pain: "You'll never amount to anything. Everything you do is a disaster."
**Vengeful words said in reaction to others when they hurt us: "You're driving me crazy. You'd like to see me dead."
**Deceitful words that disguise our feelings when we're angry or upset: "Oh, nothing's the matter. I'm just fine. Leave me alone."
**Words that deny reality: "I can't talk about that now. Let's get something to eat and forget about it."
Brick #6: Misreading the issue. Parents often start to view every issue as a crisis and every disagreement as rebellion. They misread the importance of events in their teens' lives.
Teens live roller-coaster lives; today's low is quickly replaced by tomorrow's ecstasy. Parents need not ride the roller coaster; they can create a place of stability in a teen's tumultuous world by reacting calmly to daily--even hourly--crises.
Brick #7: Missing out on closure. Too often, we leave issues hanging. Nothing gets resolved, and we end up with garbage bags full of dumped emotions. In psychological terms, a responsible ventilation of feelings is called catharsis--a helpful tool when the person ventilating takes responsibility for his feelings and has permission from the other person to ventilate.
But once catharsis is exercised, change dumping into sharing. Instead of just letting things hang, bring closure to your conversation.
DEMOLISHING THE WALL So how do we demolish a wall of miscommunication once it's up? Here's a four-step plan of attack.
1. Identify the problem. Return to the place where the train of your relationship derailed. Take action instead of waiting to see how things turn out. Do something immediately about the breakdown in communication.
Make the first move toward your teen-ager regardless of who is at fault or whether you think your teen will respond positively. God sent His Son without waiting on an invitation from humanity; He loved us even when we responded to His love with a cross.
2. Replay the miscommunication. Ask your teen to help you replay the conversation, this time saying the right words and listening in the right places. Replaying what happened helps you see where the train wreck occurred and how to avoid the same mistake next time. Allow your teen to critique your words and actions.
Remember that you are listening, not trying to defend yourself. Being defensive always adds bricks to the wall instead of tearing it down.