Raising a teen is challenging. For every parent that is or has raised one before knows this. With growth hormonal spurt, all the physical and psychological changes that accompany adolescence, technology further complicates teen parenting by having to deal with global world and mobile internet, satellite television, video games, violence and much more.
Gary Chapman has demystified the challenges that surrounds the parenting of teenagers.
What is this?: Book Summary (Discussion/Review); A step-by-step guide to understanding and loving your teenager; My lessons learned.
Book: The 5 love languages of Teenagers; Secrets to loving Teens Effectively
Author– Gary Chapman
Original Book Volume- 290 Pages
Chapters- 13 Chapters. (Each chapter has average of 34 pages)
This Book Summary– Chapters 1-8; 13-15 lines each (Due to length, I will take chapters 9-13 separately)
I implore you to please see this as a cheat sheet, a reference or little manual for understanding and loving teenagers. This summary is worth the read. I realize it’s a little lengthy but what I know in life is that there are no short cuts to raising stable, well balanced and rounded children. No good thing comes easy in life.
When you are done- Please leave a comment, share your experience or start a discussion in the comment section. State the chapter the discussion is from so we can all know where the question stems from.
I specially thank you for honoring my invitation, reading and leaving comments below. 🙂
Each chapter summary is a 2 minute read.
Understanding and Knowing how to love your teenage more effectively using the 5 love languages of Gary Chapman
CHAPTER 1– Understanding Today’s Teenagers
As a child attains teenage years, there is an innate quest to establish independence (especially from parents) and self- identity. This is as a result of 1) the physical and mental changes that their body is undergoing; 2) Because they are entering the Age of Reasoning where they begin to think logically and believe they are smarter than their parents which in some areas, is true; 3) Ability to analyse and reason gives birth to confronting personal morality and values. They begin to examine the belief system with which they were raised. They try to determine if their values and morality are worth commitment. They question their parents’ view of God. 4) This is when they begin to think about sexuality and marriage. What is appropriate and not appropriate regarding opposite sex, sexual thoughts and feelings? 5) This is a stage where they begin to question the future. What will become of them, what is worth their investment and time? What will make them happy?
The world complicates these with advance technology; knowledge of and exposure to violence through media, movies, songs, novels etc. fragmented family; Knowledge and exposure to sexuality in a world where there are no sexual rules. Where sex is equated with love and the world depicts sex as an expected part of a meaningful dating relationship making a vast majority of them to be sexually active. Lastly, the contemporary teen lives in a post-Christian world. A world where morals are degraded to- if it feels good-it is good. A world where right and wrong are relative.
As much as the world’s morals seem twisted and upside down and technology is on a superhighway advancement, Gary said, the contemporary teenager (as he calls them) is looking to parents for guidance in making life decisions. What this means is that we as parents still hold the key. We are still the major influence on their thoughts, behaviors and life decisions.
My lesson learned- Despite the twisted belief of the current world, the enormous distractions and physiological changes going on in a teen’s body and life, WE, PARENTS still prevail. WE are the answers to the challenges they face.
CHAPTER 2- THE KEY: LOVE FROM PARENTS
In this chapter, Gary used several researches done by scholars to show parental influence in a teenager’s life. Researches like Gallup Youth Survey, research performed by Lawrence Steinberg, a senior research associate at the Center for Research in Human Development and Education. These two researches show that “adolescence is not an inherently difficult period. Psychological problems, behavioural problems and family conflict are no common in adolescent than at any other stage of a life cycle”. He also stated that the teenager has a strong desire to feel CONNECTED, ACCEPTED and NURTURED. When he/she does not feel these, his inner emotional tank is empty and the emptiness will greatly affect the behavior of the teen.
The Teen’s Desire for Connection is achieved through; A) The Presence of Parents which is done through “emotional bonding”. Bonding requires time together. You must spend time together. When you are not connecting with your teenager, you are abandoning him/her. B) The Connecting Power of Communication. Make out time to talk to your teenager. Ask about their day.
The Teen’s Desire for Acceptance; The Power of Acceptance……. And Rejection. Ensure he/she feels connected, accepted. The teenager has a strong desire to know he is accepted for who he is. It is important that you love your teenager for who he/she is. Using scientific research, Gary connects the feeling of rejection to low self-esteem, defiant moral development and difficulty in handling aggression and confused sexual identity.
The Teen’s Desire to be nurtured- Nurture your teenager by feeding their mind and soul. Never Abuse; Be a nurturing parent by feeding their inner spirit – This is done through a warm, encouraging and positive emotional climate. Be a positive parent by always seeing the hand of God behind the scenes of human events. Never physically or verbally abuse your teenager. The scars of abuse will follow them for a lifetime. Don’t push, shove, slap, beat or shake your teenager. This will harm their physical and mental development. Understand the impact of an Empty Tank– This is about emotional love. When empty, the teenager says “no one cares about me”. Then motivation for learning dissipates.
My lesson learned #1- We should never allow our teen’s emotional tank to run empty; Never Reject; Never Abuse.
CHAPTER 3– LOVE LANGUAGE #1- Words of Affirmation
This is when a teenager likes to be told affirming words. When a teenager is asked how he knows that his parents love him, he typically responds with “they tell me things like I am the best football player” , “I love you” etc. In the same vein, they get deeply hurt by negative and condemning words. When a teenager whose love language is words of affirmation does not get to hear positive, encouraging words, their emotional tank runs dry and they can either be rebellious or withdrawn.
Things to consider when using words of affirmation- Remember they aren’t kids anymore. They seek independence and self-identity. Be more honest in your affirmation. Don’t say things like “you are the best player in the world”. Because they seek self-identity (constantly comparing themselves with their peers physically, intellectually and socially) and can easily conclude that they do not “measure up”, they constantly need to be affirmed.
How to affirm your teenager-
Words of Praise- Be sincere and be praise specific. When you can’t praise results, praise and reward efforts.
Words of Affection- This is verbally expressing positive regard for the teenager as a person unlike praise that focuses on behavior. Words of affection can focus on their personality or body. Examples are “I Iove you”, “I adore you”, “I feel proud when I think about you”, “you are my sunshine”, “I really miss you when you are not around”, “your bubbly personality makes so many people happy” etc.
Words in the Presence of Others- Try affirming your teenager in the presence of the entire family. Gary suggested not to do it in the presence of the teen’s peers.
My Lesson Learned #2- All teenagers need words of affirmation because of the insecurity of the teenage transition but we need to be careful how this is conveyed because they are changing and do not respond as they would have when they were children.
CHAPTER 4- LOVE LANGUAGE #2- Physical Touch.
Touch is an emotional communicator. Physical touch can communicate emotionally to the teenager but be mindful where (geographical location), how and when this is done. Don’t touch them when they are in an “anti-social mood”. If your teen likes to be hugged, patted etc here are things to be mindful of;
The time of touching- Good action taking at the wrong time often backfires. Knowing the timing could be challenging because this is determined by teenager’s mood which is not always easy to figure out. Advice? Study your teenager. Teenagers communicate mood by their body language. When a teen is angry, don’t touch because it comes across as wanting to control them and you remember they seek independence.
The place of touching- Gary specifically states “geography”, not sexuality 🙂 . A 10 year old will welcome his mother’s embrace after a game but a 16 will want to be with his peers celebrating, giving high-fives, patting each other on the back but definitely not hugging mommy. Remember, the teen’s self-identity is tied up with that of his friends. A good rule of thumb- “never touch a teenager in the presence of his/her friends unless the teenager initiates it”.
The manner for touching- Be flexible. Numerous ways to express affection through physical touch.- Hugs, kisses, back rubs, pats, tender touches, massages and arm wrestling are all appropriate when speaking the language of touch. You will have to study your teen to know not only the love language but also the dialect. Please don’t force your own love language on your teenager. Study theirs. Using Physical touch Gently to Correct– Since you don’t beat, smack, slap your teenager, touching them gently when they have done something bad sends a strong message. For example, if you daughter breaks one of the house rules, you can gently touch both shoulders with your two hands, explaining to them why you are upset.
Inappropriate Touches- Physical abuse and sexual abuse.
My Lesson Learned #3- I’m thinking this might be challenging for some parents (especially Africans). A lot of parents lean on proverbs 13:24 come into play- “spare the rod, spoil the child”. I don’t smack my pre-teen but we all know children can be so naughty at times that they deserve a whooping. I personally think smacking a teenager is ineffective and shouldn’t be done. Speaking to them is a better choice. What do you think?
CHAPTER 5- LOVE LANGUAGE #3: Quality Time
To give your teenager quality time is to give your teenager a portion of your life. This love language is much more difficult to speak because it takes time.
You have to be there, really there for your teenager- Togetherness is key when speaking of quality time. You can be there (proximity) with your teenager and yet not be there (in touch, in mind, in truth). Togetherness has to do with being in touch with each other. It means your teenager feels he is the focus of your attention. You have to communicate with eyes, words, touch and body language.
Quality Conversation- You must have quality conversation. One in which both are free to express each other, share experience, thoughts, feelings, and desires in a friendly and accepting atmosphere. Quality conversation involves asking and listening. During such conversation, maintain eye contact when your teenager is talking; Don’t multitask while listening to them, listen for feelings; Observe body language; Refuse to interrupt; Ask reflective questions; Express your understanding; Ask permission to share your perspective;
Learning To Talk– Use sentences like “I think…. I feel…., I want…”- These are statements of self-revelation. They are informing the teenager of what is going on in your head. Don’t use statements like “You are wrong, you don’t understand, you are misreading the situation, you are being unreasonable, you are making my life difficult” etc.
Teach instead of Preach: Both of these methods deliver messages but their mode of delivery is different. The preacher is forceful in his delivery (sometimes accompanied by shouting, laughing, crying etc.) while teacher uses a conversational tone, more matter-of-factly, passionately but never overtly.
Offering Reasons- replace “Because I said so” 🙂 with “let me tell you why”. Remember they are logical hence they are interested in reasons. If you are authoritative, it will stop the flow of dialogue.
Quality Activities- Conversation can take place in association with their daily activities; school, athletics, music, dance, drama, community and church. Use these venue to spend time with your teen. It communicates deeply your love for them.
The Right Environment– You can create your own environment- camping, hiking, fishing, rafting attending sports, etc. as long as your teen genuinely likes it.
When Your Teenager Won’t Talk- Some teens don’t talk because sometimes they’ve tried over time and have received a know-it-all response. When a teenager shares something with you, try to understand. If they are sad, try to be empathetic, if they are excited, be excited for them.
When Your Teenager Doesn’t Want to Spend Time With You– Recognize his need for friends (Teenager’s peer group). Their group helps them transition to adulthood providing-social-emotional support; standard that the teenager can use to judge their own behavior; opportunity for interpersonal relationship and developing social skills; provides a context in which the teenager can develop his/her sense of self-identity.
Other things to be mindful of- Consult your teen when planning; consider your teen’s interest
My lesson learned #4: As an African parent, always asking can be a little challenging. I know some of you understand me. I think too much asking at times give a child too much power and they can and will misuse/abuse it. Personally, I think we need to weigh the situation at hand before giving them the power to choose. What do you think?
CHAPTER 6- LOVE LANGUAGE #4: Acts of Service
This is when a child speaks lovingly of his/her parents and how hard they work for the family. Professional and domestic work. Parenting is a service-oriented vocation therefore we are all doing this. But then because we do it every day, it can become mundane to the teenager when the parent begin to do it without so much love attached to it anymore or the parent constantly puts it in the teen’s face with statements like this….shouting….“we work so hard to put food on the table” or if a parent who always help his teen with homework suddenly start doing it grudgingly or after the child insists. A child that speaks this language, will begin to feel less loved. Love tank will begin to run dry.
Manipulation is not love- “I will do this if you do that”; Striking a deal with teenagers. This is manipulation of acts of service. Manipulation is never an expression of love.
Reciprocal Love- This is done through Modelling and Guiding- Teach your child to serve. When they are of age, teach them how to do what you used to do for them (cooking, laundry, dirty dishes etc.) Do not cripple your teenager. Explain to your child why they have to take up the responsibility now. (example- so that when you grow older, you will be able to do it yourself). You can make a list, allow them to add to it. Allow them to choose the order in which they want to learn. Don’t push too much. This is guiding your child in learning the necessary skills- using act of service. Requires both teaching and training.
My Lesson learned #5- Nothing much to say. I concur. What about you?
CHAPTER 7- LOVE LANGUAGE #5: GIFTS
Gifts are visible and tangible evidence of emotional love. It means grace or deserved gift. When a teenager does something right or completes a chore, what you are doing is paying them for a service rendered. Gifts do not have attachments to them. A gift is not something teenagers deserve; it is given because the parents desire to share unconditional love with the teen. Check your heart. Are all the gifts you gave deserving? If so then they are not gifts but payments. For some parents, almost all of what they call “gifts” are in fact effort at manipulating their teenager, bartering for something they desire. Teenagers are used to deal making, “cutting deals” with parent hence they do not see it as gifts most of the time.
USING GIFT AS AN ACT OF LOVE- The gift and the ceremony
Gift giving should be done with some measure of ceremony. It could be wrapped, presented with words, touches. Have you noticed that when you get a gift that is neatly wrapped, you feel loved. The more effort the giver puts into getting and wrapping the gift, the more love you fell. This is exactly the same way with teenagers. When thought has been put into their gifts, they feel they are important, they think “my parents love me”. When you diminish the ceremony, you diminish the emotional power of the gift.
GIFT and MATERIALISM
Giving Money- The value of cash- Because teenagers have not worked for money, receiving it from parents does not communicate love at a deep emotional level.
Two Approaches to Money-
- Encourage the teenager to work for money. This way the teen will come to have any sense of the value of money. Unlimited money ought not to be given by the parent, nor expected by the teenager. If we want them to avoid the dangers of materialism (idolizing material things). I don’t agree with this If the teen works for the seventy-five dollars she is about to spend on this piece of designer clothing, she has some sense of the effort that goes into earning it. It forces the teen to ask “is this object worth the effort?’ This is how your teen can become a discerning consumer.
- When a parent chooses to give money, give for a specific purpose. Sport, photography, art etc. Then this can be presented as a gift in a ceremonious manner as stated above
When giving gifts-
- Consider your teen’s welfare- Remember when giving money as a gift, it is to communicate “I love you”, as a result ask yourself this question before you present the money as a gift “Am I convince that this is for the wellbeing of my teenager”. If yes, then go ahead. If no then don’t give.
- Consider their interests- Before you give a teenager a gift, consider their interest so your gift will not be meaningless to her.
Private and treasured gifts- Not all gifts are given publicly. Gifts given privately in a ceremonial manner are treasured. Garry gave example of what he did with his daughter and I think it was profound “When my daughter, Shelley, was thirteen, I invited her to take a walk with me in the village of Old Salem (a restored Moravian village in our city). The walk was not unusual for us—we often took walks together through the village. But on this occasion, we sat by the small fishpond, and I presented her with a golden key on a gold chain. I gave her what I thought was a beautiful speech about how much I valued her and how happy I was with her accomplishments in life. I told her that the key was a key to her heart and body and that my desire was that she would keep herself pure and, someday, present the key to her husband.”
Counterfeit Gifts- Gifts that are designed to take the place of true love. They are given by busy and sometimes absentee parents who are caught in the busy-ness of life.
My Lesson learned #6- I fall in the category of parents that give “deserving gifts” if there is anything called that. Most of what I give it’s because they worked for it. I’m thinking quite a number of us do this as well. My question is this, how do you give gifts to a child that has not behave well? Please parents don’t preach that even in sin, Jesus gave his life to us 🙂 . But please can someone shed light o this 🙂
CHAPTER 8- Discover Your Teenager’s Primary Love Language
- Moody Teens: Most teens are in a state of disequilibrium for several years. They are almost unpredictable in how they will respond to situations. Desires and behaviors fluctuate greatly.
- Independent Teens- Sense of independence (alluded to earlier in previous chapters).
- Withdrawing or Angry Teens- You give an affirming word and he says “Don’t get mushy” or “You’re embarrassing me”. You try all the 5 love languages and you are rebuffed. Sometimes this can be explained by the fluctuating moods.
THE PRIMARY LOVE LANGUAGE– This is the love language you child responded to before they became a teenager. They don’t change when they become teenagers. Initially, as children approach teenage years, they can withdraw from their primary love language. You may experience some resistance. This resistance is as a result of fluctuation in moods, thoughts, and desires, emerging independence; developing self-identity. Another reason a teenager might withdraw from his primary love language is if he’s receiving enough of his primary love language then a secondary love language then becomes more important. When this occurs, parents need to learn new ways to speak the same love language. You need to change your dialect. Example if a parent used to say “you are the greatest”, “I am so proud of you”, you are smart”, she needs to come up with new verbal expressions using more adult words like “I admire the strong stand you took for that boy”.
FINDING YOUR TEEN’S PRIMARY LOVE LANGUAGE
For you to know this, you need to ask your teenager questions like:
- “what would make our relationship better”
- If you (your teenager) could change anything about me, what would you change?”
Make Observations: Consciously observe the behavior of your teenager. Look for ways to in which he expressed love or appreciation to others. If you noticed that five times in the last month, your teenager has given gifts to other then his primary love language may be giving gifts. Most people use their love language to communicate love to others. Also observe the complaints. This is also a clue.
Experiment: Focus on one of five love languages every week and observe the teenager’s response. During the week that you are speaking your teenager’s primary love language, you will see a difference in your teen’s countenance and attitude toward you. The love tank is being filled, and the teenager is responding far more warmly to you than normal.
My lesson learned #6- I agree with this chapter since I am yet to study my pre-teen to know her love languages.
Conclusion- This book is a very insightful and educative book. I will recommend that every parent should have this in their personal library. A reference worth having throughout your child’s teenage years.
I will continue with cahpters’ 9-13 next week Friday. Don’t forget to tune in.
On Friday June 20, I will be sharing another book on parenting. This time on leadership. Please join in then. Also subscribe to Tolusworld.com so you can get the notification by mail.
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