Connecting with the Grunting Teen

I WAS TALKING TO A FRIEND the other day, and she expressed great frustration at not being able to get two words out of her teenage son. To be honest, her frustration lay in only being able to get two words out of her son – “yes” and “no”. Wait, grunts don’t count as words, do they?

The Grunting Teen (GT) is not such a rare phenomenon. In fact, truth be told, it probably is more the norm than the exception. I mean, honestly, if our teens’ Facebook and Twitter updates are anything to go by, our teens do not have trouble communicating. The problem seems to be communicating with adults and I guess, specifically, parents.

According to Dr Ross Campbell, the grunt stage of a teenager’s life is a normal part of the developmentof youth. He explains that it’s their way of putting some space between them and their parents. All right, so if you are a parent of a GT, I’m guessing you’re starting to smell yourself right about now, to see if there is a reason why your kids need some space from you. Relax. In addition to being patient with you GT, there are a few things you can do to try to get through to your GT.

Talking to teenagers is much the same as talking to our peers. The rules that guide good adult communication also apply to communication between adults and teenagers. The only difference is that teens are perhaps more insecure and don’t feel that they can share their true opinions without the risk of ridicule or rejection.

Let your GT know in subtle ways that you’re there for them.

Convey love to them through simple things. For example, if it’s a hot day and you know that he’ll like something cold to drink, get him one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you become your GT’s personal maid, but if you happen to be getting yourself a drink, quietly get him one too. It’s the little things that speak the loudest.

Arrange to spend some non-pressured time with your GT. Often when we make time from our busy schedules to spend time with our teens, we bring our own expectations that some great breakthrough will occur, that our GT will miraculously open up and share what’s been going on in their life. If it happens, that’s great, but just remember that the goal is to spend some time with them, if they open up to you, it’s a bonus.

If and when your GT does open up to you, listen and don’t interrupt. Sometimes teenagers stop communicating when they think that we will think less of them or that we are going to take the opposite side of an issue.

I’ve heard parents express that talking to their teenager is like talking to a brick wall – it’s extremely frustrating! But if you think about it, don’t we often appear to be grunting teens too, when God communicates with us? In the same way that God pursues us and loves us even in our apparent indifference, let’s continue to love and pursue our teenagers, grunts and all!

Annabel Ong is a mother of two and a full-time youth worker at Truth Ministries.