As a high school teacher for the last few decades, I found that the Bible reference that says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen,” was totally relevant with regard to what teenagers need.
Having a bit of a temper tantrum, whether at home or in the classroom, is pretty well as unwholesome, detrimental and harmful as you can get and only serves to discourage, exasperate or rile your teenagers. (Ask me how I know this.)
“Unwholesome talk” can also be a quiet word of criticism. Once when I was supervising a junior Maths class, I noticed a worksheet on the floor next to a student’s desk. It was crumpled in one corner and not many of the exercises had been completed. I pointed out both these shortcomings to the student and it was almost as if I could see the shutters come down on six month’s worth of rapport building.
The words came out before I had my mind in gear and I knew as I was talking that it was the wrong thing to say. Normally I would have said “Would you like a new sheet?” or “How can I help you?” or “This is a good start, now let’s see how much you can get done in the next 10 minutes.” Cajoling is always better than criticism.
My experience, when I’m criticized (even if I know I’m wrong), is to become defensive – and I’m all grown up! Imagine what it’s like for teenagers.
What they really need at this stage in their lives are words that build them up according to their needs that it may benefit them – that is, words of encouragement, affirmation and a good deal of praise. The benefits to them and us as parents and teachers are quite amazing – harmony not discord, peace not battling for supremacy and love not war.
When I left my last school where I had been a casual (sub) for eight years, I received “thank you” notes from the students. I think these notes illustrate what teenagers want and need from their parents and teachers.
Some of the notes mention kindness, patience, thoughtfulness, encouragement and fun. Teenagers value these qualities and what I found was that the more I relaxed and enjoyed their company, the less I had to discipline them.
Below I’ve included a few excerpts from the notes to let the kids speak for themselves. These are teenagers speaking from the heart and show what, according to teenagers, they need and value.
Each note began, “Thank you for…”
• making each student in the school happy
• putting up with us every time you get us (i.e. having patience)
• Always giving every student a chance and treating everyone like an adult giving lots of merits and making every lesson fun and enjoyable
• Being very kind & for giving me lots of (merit) stickers
• You make working be fun
• Being a patient and thoughtful teacher
Patience is needed as well as kindness, thoughtfulness, a sense of humor and fun and the ability to listen more than talk.
When we praise and value our teenagers, the results are nothing short of miraculous.
Philip S. Baker B.A. Dip. Ed invites you to find out more about positive teaching and parenting of teenagers at http://christianteachingtoday.com. His book, “Sunshine in the Classroom Makes Them Happy,” will show you what teenagers need and respond to using basic Christian principles. See his story by going to http://christianteachingtoday.com.