mutual respect begins with listening. Let me me share a couple more suggestions with you to help you improve your communication with your teenagers.
Don't treat their problems lightly. When your teenage daughter comes home after her boyfriend has broken up with her, it is easy for you as a dad to kind of chuckle and respond with a lack of compassion by saying, "You'll be fine! There are other fish in the sea!" Yes, there really are other "fish in the sea" and yes, she will be fine. But at that moment her world just came crashing down. Her problem may seem minimal to you in comparison to the problems you are facing when it comes to employment issues and financial issues but to her, it is HUGE! If you treat your kid's problems lightly you will not be the person that they will want to go to during the times in their life when they are scared, hurt or confused. And it is at exactly those times in a teenager's life that they most need to be communicating with their parents.
Enter your child's world. We are good at this when our kids are real little. When my daughter was real little we had to watch "The Little Mermaid" daily. For my son it was "The Lion King." Back then we eagerly entered our children's world. But when our kids became teenagers, for some reason we quit doing that. Enter their world. For example, for many teenagers right now the movie "The Hunger Games" is HUGE! Your teen has probably seen it. Have you? They may have read the book. Have you? Do you want to improve communication with your child? Then enter their world.
Be willing to keep secrets. This is crucial. Now I am not talking about dangerous secrets. For example, if your teenage daughter tells you that her best friend is talking about committing suicide, you can't keep that a secret. That would be dangerous. I'm talking about when Jr High Jimmy tells his mom that he has a crush on Susie. And Jimmy's mom is good friends with Susie's mom so she says to Susie's mom, "My Jimmy has a crush on your Susie." At that point Jimmy's mom has just broken trust with her son and if Jimmy discovers that (and he most likely will) she has greatly damaged her ability to communicate with her teenage son.
Tomorrow I will share three final suggestions.