Texting, Teens, and Mindful Parenting with the JRRSEhope Coach

Editor’s Note: Medtopicwriter Guest Contributor, Ronae Jull, is pursuing her PhD, while working as a successful life coach. As a life coach, she offers solutions for midlife parents, troubled teens, and single moms. Jull is a regular featured author, known as the Hope Coach, at the Inspirational Woman MagazinevoiceBoks, and Adams Organizing. Listen to her live broadcasts on the Dr. Carol Show – with podcasts of recent radio shows posted on her website, jrrseHOPE Coaching.

Teens seem to communicate better through texting than talking. (Photo courtesy of Cracked.com)

I’ll admit it – I’m definitely a glass half full type of person. I can remember my teenage years well… okay, that was a long time ago, but I’ll never forget the angst, the isolation I felt. I was a bit of a geeky, socially inept teen, with few friends. Much of that resulted from the legacy of my dysfunctional family, and I had few outlets for personal expression.

When I see teens today, texting madly, I’m thrilled! I want to stand up and shout, “Hey! At least they’re communicating – how cool is that!”

The generation gap is all about teens and parents not speaking, but not really communicating. They try to communicate in their own way, but become frustrated by the persistent disconnect. The texting generation has done much to narrow that gap. Since teens insist on acting like, well — teens, it’s up to parents act as teen-speak translators. Parents must also teach the boundaries necessary to effectively use this marvelous method of communication.

I call this mindful parenting. Teens do not self-govern when it comes to texting. They cannot intuitively discern when to put down the cell phone and get a good night’s sleep; refrain from texting during meals; or translate text-based relationships into real human interactions, unless parents intentionally teach them. Last month Jennifer Ludden addressed these issues on NPR, and she explored both the positives and negatives of the teen texting habits.

Upside of Texting

  • Texting helps teens talk! Yes, I think it’s very cool. Through texting, they connect to their friends, to their parents, and to the world.
  • Texting helps parents reach teens. I remember well the days before cell phones; like all parents, I worried about my teens’ whereabouts, the company they kept, and their activities. With the texting generation, parents can communicate with teens anywhere.
  • Texting helps teens actually engage. Talking does not equate with engagement. Engagement involves give-and-take, an actual conversation, using teen-style communication.
  • Texting helps teens and parents avoid conflict. Yes, I really believe this. If parents set a clear boundary with their teens, they will undoubtedly challenge it. It’s easier to say “no” in a text message than to combat the, often super-creative, and never-ending arguments that occur in person. Likewise, when your teen feels angry a parent, they will probably answer or send a text message anyway.
  • Texting can ameliorate communication barriers between parents and teens.
  • Texting presents a great opportunity for setting boundaries. Having a conflict with your teen? Tired of his or her repeated attempts to break down limits you’ve laid out? Simply disengage. Send him or her a text, “Sorry, I already answered this,” without responding to further requests. Respond firmly to rude and disrespectful text messages, and then disengage.
  • Texting makes teens read. Okay, so texting is not equal to reading a book. But how cool is it that teens are engaging through the written word? Think about that one for a minute!

I recently related the following text-based conversation I had with one of my sons in the group Parenting Teenagers and Adults on the voiceBoks website:

Him: Hey mom, i’m feelin fragile & needy. What can you do for me?

Me: Fragile as in arms & legs falling off, or as in heartbroken needing serious hugs?

Him: well, rem’ber tho my body sez 19, my soul is younger. think of 14 or 15 & you w/ be just about rite.

Me: Ok. Here’s some serious mom lovin!

Him: thanks. can i have $20?

This rather humorous conversation highlights one of the first potential downsides of the texting generation.

Downside of Texting

  • Text conversations lend themselves to parental manipulation. After the text conversation, I first planned to give him the $20. But, this downside has an upside: the lag time between responses allows the manipulated person (in this case, the parent) time to think before acting.
  • Texting has spawned a generation of abbreviated spellers. Remember, mindful parenting. Parents must intentionally teach teens about the appropriate to use the texting shorthand and when they need to use proper English. Don’t assume that the school system will fix this downside. Parents must take responsibility and address this mindfully with their teen children.
  • I counsel many parents who feel at a loss with their teens. They watch, as their teen children text rather than talk, text during meals, during church, during a conversations with them, and while driving. Here’s a thought: if your teen starts answering a text, during a conversation with you, grab your phone and text them directly, “Stop. I need your attention for five whole minutes!”

Solutions

  • Set boundaries for WHEN. Create a written contract with your teen, outlining when it is and is not appropriate for him to send and receive text messages, and consequences if he ignores your boundaries. Think about this: these teens are choosing to communicate in writing, so communicate your boundaries in writing. It’s one way to mindfully use texting to reach your teen and teach an important lesson. One caution: don’t be rigid or too narrow.
  • Set boundaries for HOW. I’ve recently heard from mothers of teens who fail to edit their language when communicating with adults. Parents must mindfully teach teens the different language requirements for different audiences. Many mothers may hold to a fantasy that their teens never use bad language, but this is not realistic. Don’t put up with foul language in person or through texting from your teens.
  • Teen created boundaries for parents. Respectfully consider these boundaries. If your teen engages in the practice of boundary setting, wouldn’t it be better to celebrate his attempts than to get defensive? Choose to validate your own requirements by respecting his.
  • Timeliness of Responses. Texting has potential to make teens feel entitled to immediate gratification. Even though I believe texting represents a great way for parents to connect with their teens, it may also leave your teen thinking that their every text, and want, deserves an immediate response. Parents must address this issue mindfully and intentionally to help their teens grow to understand the importance of delayed gratification.

One parent put it to me this way: “I was so determined that my child NOT grow up with an immediate entitlement attitude, I set up a weekly and monthly texting contest with my teens. The prize for a whole month of no texting arguments with me, for instance, was a movie of my son’s choice that I would pay for. I would encourage parents to try this strategy for teaching responsible texting.

Respond

What works for you? Have you addressed the downsides of the texting generation in your own family? How have you used mindful parenting with your teen and his or her texting habits? What still frustrates you? What has worked? Click on Comments below and tell me your thoughts!

Remember that together, things CAN be better!

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  1. #1 by Becky on June 1, 2011 - 11:25 AM

    I never thought about texting this way. Thanks for helping me see the positive way it will help our kids. http://homesandbabies.blogspot.com

    • #2 by Samantha Gluck on June 1, 2011 - 11:42 AM

      I hadn’t thought of it either, but have been doing it all along anyway. Ronae coined the term, Mindful Parenting as well as Electronic Parenting. While I enjoy face-to-face talking with my teens (and my younger kids don’t have cell phones), sometimes that isn’t possible — like when they’re at school and I’m in my office writing. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. #3 by Lisa Ladrido on June 1, 2011 - 3:30 PM

    What a great conversation with her son via text! I love that my boys communicate with me using all of social media! I received a text from our youngest who is in college. He always kept a messy room here, but he had to show me his bedroom in his apartment, so he texted me a pic, then Skyped me to give me a tour of his organized closet!

    Visiting from VoiceBoks!~Lisa
    I am all a twitter about life
    Find Me on Twitter

    • #4 by Samantha Gluck on June 1, 2011 - 7:00 PM

      How wonderful that he has taken the lessons you tried to impart to him to heart! While I enjoy connecting face to face with my kids most of all, sometimes they are at school, working, or out with friends. It’s quicker and easier in those situations to send a simple text message.

  3. #5 by Lolo on June 1, 2011 - 4:05 PM

    Mindful parenting! I´m in for loads of that!!! Have any advise for 7 years olds that behave like teens???
    BTW your have lots of great info on your blog ; ) I´ve learned a great deal by checking it

    Visiting from VoiceBoks
    Lolo

    detodounlolo.blogspot.com

    • #6 by Samantha Gluck on June 1, 2011 - 7:02 PM

      Thanks for dropping by Lolo! In addition to my two teens, I have a 10 year old and an 8 year old — face to face is the ONLY way (in my opinion) to get the message across to them. No cellphones until age 14 or 15 (if even then). But, I’m sure JRRSEhope Coach, Ronae Jull, will have some pointers!

  4. #7 by Barbara Mascareno-Shaw on June 1, 2011 - 4:20 PM

    It’s just surprising that texting has become a norm for talking, not just teenagers but adults too. Thanks for posting all these guidelines. Glad to connect with you at vB.
    Many blessings,
    Barbara

    • #8 by Samantha Gluck on June 1, 2011 - 7:05 PM

      Barbara,

      I’m happy to connect with you as well! These are Ronae’s pointers, not mine. She’s the expert! It is surprising, but par for the course with our society and the techno-craze that has taken over. I like texting for short, simple messages where a phone call might take much longer. But — good old fashioned voice to voice or face to face works too.

  5. #9 by RJ, the HOPE Coach on June 3, 2011 - 4:52 AM

    I so appreciate all of your responses to this article – and a special thank you for the opportunity from Samantha!

    Since it seems that texting is here to stay, we can mindfully use it as a tool to help communicate, but certainly not as our only means of engagement. And part of that is intentionally teaching our kids when it is appropriate and when a ‘real’ conversation is better!

    I have one adult son who is absolutely paralyzed by trying to talk on the phone, and texting has been such a lifesaver for us in keeping the lines of communication open. I’m not sure that a seven year old would benefit from texting though! Sounds like that is a good idea for another article.

    RJ, the HOPE coach

    • #10 by Samantha Gluck on June 3, 2011 - 12:18 PM

      Thanks, Ronae. I thank you for the opportunity to display your articles on communication and parenting here on Medtopicwriter.

      Samantha