Teens/children who are distant, teens/children who are rebellious, teens who seem obnoxious to their parents, teens who dress in bizarre ways or have piercings and/or tattoos, shy teens and teens who have inconsistent behavior are teens who are silently crying behind the wall they have put up. They have put up these walls, which seem impenetrable, but like the Berlin Wall, which also looked impenetrable to us years ago, these walls can come down. (Brad Wilcox, lecture, Channel 21, October 30 (Originally, April 4, 2000. See BYUbroadcast.org).
So how do you do see behind the wall and find the problem?
Brad Wilcox said that we first need to recognize that the above listed conditions do indicate a person is hurting. Then one way to find the source of the hurt is to listen in a different way. He said to watch non-verbal signals. Only seven percent of what needs to be communicated is communicated with words. Fifty-five percent of the message is communicated with body language and 38 percent is communicated with tone of voice.
When a teen says, "I have a friend who is on drugs. I'd like to help him," and you respond with, "I don't want you associating with a friend like that!" you are pushing him away. You see, he is usually talking about himself. Teens often feel out their parents with the "I have a friend who . . ." and we seldom see that it is the teen who wants help.
Show a genuine interest in what is important to the youth. It might be clothes, music, sports, girls, etc. As you build a relationship, you will see a different person. Help him with what is important to him and eventually he will let you see behind his wall.
A teenage girl who was normally on time for school was finding excuses to be late. The mother became extremely agitated at giving rides every day. As her sassy daughter got out of the car, the mother impulsively said, this time in an understanding way, "What is the problem?"
She found that her daughter was teased every day in her first period class about her Church, her modest dress, etc. It was easier for the girl to be late than to endure what she went through each day. The mother now knew the real problem that was behind her wall, and they worked together to change the class.
Brad said three things will help parents break through the wall: "I love you," "I trust you," "I respect you." Teens need to know that there is nothing they can share with parents that will make them stop loving them. And he said, "YOU can always be respectful."
Brad also said, "There is no place for negative humor. One of the worst is to say, 'Just kidding.' Everyone knows this includes an element of truth that hurts." It builds walls.
He encouraged parents to physically hug their teens. Physical touch is a human need. We do it to babies and children, stop it as teens and pick it up again in marriage. Teens NEED hugs.
In a survey, 99 percent of the teens interviewed wanted hugs from their parents. Few got them. Hugs help heal the crying behind the wall.