Series – Talking to Your Youth (Part 2)

Insight 1. Seek Understanding – Question, Listen, and Challenge

When we attempt to understand the world strictly from our point of view, we can miss all of the other reasons why people act the way they act. So when we see our youth behaving in ways that confuse us, we must seek understanding, and in my opinion, true understanding requires you to do three things: question, listen, and challenge.

Question - Asking the right questions can sometimes be difficult. The very first thing I say to adults when it comes to talking with youth is try to avoid "Why" questions. Think of a time when you made a choice and someone responded with, "WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!" Knowing why someone acts the way they do is important, but asking the Why Question right off the bat is too large of a question (many times). I recommend asking other questions that start with What, How, When, Do, or Where.

"How do you feel about your choice now?"

"When did you recognize your choice had consequences?"

"What sort of consequences are you starting to see?"

"What are your thoughts moving forward?"

"Do you think you have new knowledge to help you move forward?"

And so on!

Listen - How many times have you talked to someone in your life to only hear in your own head, "I didn't need to hear that. Nope, didn't need to hear that either." I can remember countless times when I would hear my students going through a rough spot or even talking to me about the choices they made, and I would constantly have an immediate emotional reaction. That emotional reaction was so shocking that I wanted to get it out of me. This is when we react rather than listen. What we have to remember is that our youths have approached us to talk to us about something that's on their mind. Because of this, we must remember our primary duty: to listen. It may not be what you want to hear, but this is about the youth that is sitting right in front of you. We must be there to listen.

Challenge - This step is two-fold, and the first part is very simple: challenge your youths to understand that they can make new choices and do not have to make the same choice again if they choose not to. But more importantly, the second part of this step is to challenge your own way of thinking. Even at 27 years old, I have to remember that my youth are in a totally different generation than when I was raised. I have to challenge my way of thinking so that I can meet my youth where they are at. I will not be able to fully understand what they are going through if I keep depending on what I know and what I think. It will never work. So challenge yourself to understand that your line of thinking may not be the best lens to look through. Challenge yourself to put aside what you think and what you've seen so you can hear how your youth is thinking and see what your youth has seen.