Tools for communicating with young men.
I know the voices of our culture make it hard to believe, but a son really does want to communicate with his parents, and he really does need to hear your voice. This is the way God designed us. God has made parents to be His representatives to our children and so in a real sense our boys learn from us who God is by how we live and speak in front of them. This doesn’t make communication easy, but it should give you hope.
To increase the likelihood that our communication with our sons will be positive, parents should keep in mind, among other principles, the following factors:
1. Every young man is different
The type of bond you have with one son might be different from the bond you have with another. As a good coach, you must adjust your approach and style of communication to the personality of the young man as you challenge and encourage him.
2. Boys listen best while doing
Your son likes to move, watch movement, and make things move. Even though this may be annoying it is not a design flaw. Therefore, you will often have the best conversations when you are doing something together: taking a walk, fishing, or a trip to McDonalds are a few suggestions. Christian Service Brigade’s approach to discipleship is built around this reality.
3. Boys’ emotions are unstable
Males typically have the capacity to become emotionally worked up faster than females. When a boy doesn’t understand his emotions, it does not matter what the good idea is or whether his intentions are positive; it is unlikely that his communication will be successful. The emotional state of your son and his ability to be fully present for the conversation should be assessed. Sometimes you need to wait for a better time to talk to him.
4. Boys connect with the external world more easily
When you are attempting to talk about a spiritually-related or character-related concept, remember that males tend to focus more on the external elements of their life and are less aware of the internal aspects of themselves. If you are trying to help them grow toward manhood, your messages will be more effective if they are connected to an external action or consequence. Jesus used trees, coins, mountains and other external symbols to teach principles related to our spiritual and internal lives.
5. Consider a boy’s attention span
Choose the right place and time and strategically prepare for what you want to communicate. Direct the conversation toward subjects that fit the young man’s interests and concerns. His limited attention span is not necessarily sin, but rather a natural part of him being young. Consider this patiently even as you seek to help him mature.
6. Remember you are talking to a future MAN
Being predictably unpredictable also increases the likelihood that a person will listen. A young man’s interest in communicating is often spiked by certain words: challenge, failure, war, fight, competition, respect, competence, mastery and winning. These words have aggressive or strength-related overtones that a young man is often drawn to. Testosterone, which produces aggressive, energetic responses, causes a young man to lock into a conversation if the words that are used tap into this internal energy. Hormones can often be an obstacle, try to use them to your advantage!
7. Don’t interrogate or patronize
Use questions that do not make your son feel like he is undergoing an interrogation. Help him feel that you are his biggest advocate. By asking the right questions, your son will be encouraged to discover and explore his thoughts about life and talk with you about them. Independence is highly valued by young men; encouraging them to think through things is helpful. You will not be there at every important decision-making moment. The right questions will prepare him for making the right decisions. Discussion and questions are far more powerful than a lecture.
8. Know your relationship
It is your responsibility as the leader to be sensitive to your son’s feelings about your relationship. Jesus is an excellent example of this type of leadership. Trust must be established in your relationship before you can expect him to feel open, especially about sensitive or embarrassing topics. It is vital that you guard against breaking trust with your son. It is helpful to ask yourself how your son would describe his relationship with you and allow that to guide you in your conversations.
Dr. Roy Smith is a pastor and alumni of Brigade. He has worked for over 30 years as a psychologist/counselor to men and their families, and is the founder of Knights of the 21st Century, a men’s ministry DVD/curriculum series. He has also written several books in the area of men’s issues: Bull, Manhood Journey and You’re Not Dead Yet.