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 Magazine, voiceBoks, 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.
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!”
- 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.
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!