Success in life is greatly impacted by how we relate to people. If teenagers do not learn positive social skills at home, where will they learn them? The reality is that many adults lose jobs, marriages, and mental health because they never learned how to relate to people in a healthy manner. I believe that one of the most important roles of parents is to teach children social skills. In the teen years we are simply building on the foundation that began in childhood. However, it is never too late to begin. I wish I’d known that helping a teen develop social skills is as important as seeing that they get a good education.
Asking questions is a social skill that every teen needs. I have always been fascinated that when children are young they are always asking questions, but when they get to be teens, they often become quiet.
Teens want to be respected, admired, and accepted. They think that they must appear competent to reach this goal. They give the appearance that they are intelligent. Inside, they have the same insecurities that you had when you were a teenager. They are trying to compensate for these insecurities. If a parent understands this reality, they will be less condemning of the teen’s “know-it-all” attitude.
I am not talking about asking questions to gain knowledge. I’m talking about asking questions because you have a genuine interest in getting to know people. These questions grow out of the belief that every individual is a person of worth—that, if I ask questions about their journey, I may learn some “life lessons” I would never discover in the normal flow of life.
Teens will not learn the skill of asking questions unless parents are intentional in teaching and modeling it for them. Do they hear you ask questions of your spouse when you are sharing a family meal? Do you ask the teens opinion on the topic?
Help your teen develop a list of questions they could ask their peers. Such questions as: Where were you born? What is your earliest memory as a child? Where did you attend elementary school? Do you think you will go to college when you finish high school? What do you think you might like to do when you are an adult?
Teens who learn to express interest in the lives of other teens will build meaningful friendships, and will develop a relationship skill that will serve them well in the adult world.
From time to time I engage a teenager in the lobby of our church, and ask them some of the questions noted above. They are usually open to give me answers. Often, I sense they are surprised that I would be interested in them. However, seldom does one of these teens ask me questions about my childhood, or my life as a teenager, or questions about my vocation. It is obvious they have not been trained in the skill of asking questions. But again, it is never too late to start.
The teen who learns to ask questions will never meet a stranger who remains a stranger. They will likely build strong friendships and will find this skill a tremendous asset in their vocation.
Adapted from Things I Wish I’d Known Before My Child Became a Teenager by Gary Chapman (© 2021). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.