Last week Part 3 (WYKAR3) was about how a parent can use simple questions about books to give an indication of what is going on in their teenager’s life. Young adults are a puzzle to their parents, and even a non-answer can help parents learn about their offspring. But an actual answer can be an indication of the child testing the water for a conversation.
HOW TO DISCUSS BOOKS WITH YOUR TROUBLESOME TEEN?
As I mentioned before, a parent asking their teenager for help or advice can be a good thing. Yes, the kid might refuse to answer… but if they give a reply, a parent needs to know what they should do.
Taking the same question, “I need a new book to read, what do you suggest?”. This isn’t something that will have an immediate result, they might not answer the first few times. You shouldn’t give up, but you should probably only ask this question every couple months at the most. Otherwise, your teen will realize you are just using it as a gimmick to worm your way into their lives, rather than being truly interested in their opinions.
If your kid does, in fact, eventually give you a title you need to be sure to listen to what they say. Write it down, send yourself a reminder text, have it tattooed on your forehead, but whatever you do make sure to remember what the book is called.
And then read it.
Chances are it is just the first book that popped into their head and your teen is just using it to give you a quick answer so they can go on with their lives, but by showing them you actually listened to what they said, they may realize you will listen to them about other things. If your kid is just giving you random titles to get you to leave them alone, eventually they are going to have to start researching books to tell you.
They might do an online search for random or obscure novels, which could eventually lead them to find something of interest to them and thus starting a love of reading. If you can’t find their book suggestion, be sure to ask them where you might get it or how they found it. This might lead to them showing you how to do effective Internet searches and the start of “lessons” for you with your kid, your discovering they have a proficiency in electronics that you can encourage, or the planning of a road trip together to go buy the book.
On the other hand, they might ask their friends to give them suggestions, which will get the teenagers discussing books among themselves. At worst, the friends will raid their parents’ shelves for titles and then you will know a bit more about their friends’ families that your teen would otherwise not bother to mention. Then again, it also might cause your kids and their friends to become more interested reading novels –even inappropriate ones- than an interest in going to wild parties or trying drugs. Even if your own teenager doesn’t become a reader, it just might influence someone else’s kid to be.
Your offspring might give you a name of a book as a test, telling you something they may or may not have read themselves but feel you will not approve of. By reading that novel you will know what kind of knowledge your kid is being exposed to without trying to pick their brains and causing an argument about invasion of privacy. Even if the book is inappropriate, don’t freak out at them, as that will only cause them to feel vindicated for their attitude rather than discovering they can talk to you about various subjects without an imminent explosion.
Eventually, your kid may begin to give you book suggestions that truly matter to them. Novels that deal with issues they are also dealing with in their own lives, topics they want to learn about. If you have seen your kid reading many of the books they are now suggesting to you, see it as a way they are opening up to you and letting you into their lives little by little.
In fact, your offspring might start to take the time to think about you. They might learn that you are an individual who has thoughts and feelings and preferences, rather than just an evil pod person bent on destroying their lives. Your teenager might start looking for books they think you will like, so they can show you that they love and care about you too.
No matter what your kid suggests, even if you think you will hate it, try to read it anyways. At least your teenager will know you are making an attempt, and you also discover interest in a genre you would never have considered on your own. Once you read that book be sure to show a willingness to discuss the book with them, even if you just say one sentence about it at the dinner table.
If you couldn’t get past the second chapter, say so and tell them why. Don’t hesitate to make a fool of yourself by saying a book freaked you out or made you uncomfortable. They might laugh at you, but you could always ask them to suggest a different type of book. This will require them to give a little more consideration about their next answer.
Hopefully then your kid will realize they can talk to you, and you might begin to have discussions about what you are both reading. By being willing to share an interest with them, they will feel more confident in being themselves and not feel the need to be secretive. Then, you might be surprised: your little rebel just might open up to you and have a conversation about other things that matter to them, too.