As parents we suffer heartache if our teenager shuts us out of his or her life. But if they do, why? Possibly because the weaknesses of every personality possess the potential repeatedly to kill conversation.
The Powerful Choleric can judge, destroying vulnerability.
The Popular Sanguine never shuts up, turning dialogue into monologue.
The Perfect Melancholy might endlessly correct: conversational-crushing by slow degree.
The Peaceful Phlegmatic rarely responds, creating an emotional black hole.
No young adult abruptly turns off the conversation spigot merely by reaching the magic word “teenager”. But, from early childhood, they can be trained to close the tap imperceptibly. The scenario below might help us see how that could happen.
Sanguine Suzy flies in the back door after school with hair askew and filled with exciting classroom news, but she has no backpack!
Sanguine Mom gets excited but soon usurps the conversation with stories of her own elementary years. She doesn’t notice that Suzy has stopped talking. By Junior High, Suzy will find friends who will listen.
Choleric Mom immediately notices the errant backpack. Sharply cutting off Suzy’s exuberance, Mom scolds her for her forgetfulness and drives to the school. Subdued by criticism, Suzy is quiet. By age twelve or thirteen, Suzy will chatter to friends with whom she feels accepted. Once home, she will not need to tell Mom about her day.
Melancholy Mom braces herself as “Tornado Suzy” bursts through the door. Taking detailed inventory, she sighs: soiled dress, wisps of hair escaped from the morning’s tidy braids, and once again, no backpack. Mom immediately takes Suzy to task, squelching the gush of words. By the time Suzy is in high school, she will be neat, quiet at home, and account for her possessions, but she will confide in friends who offer her approval.
Fatigued by her own day, Phlegmatic Mom has little energy to respond to her daughter’s breathless stream of chatter. When Mom says it’s too much trouble to go back to the school, and she will just have to get her backpack the next day, Suzy cries, “You don’t care!” By her “tweens” she will come to believe (wrongly) that Mom doesn’t care about her day, her feelings, or her concerns. She will talk to friends who truly don’t care, but demonstrate affection for her.
No parent holds their newborn and intends these painful teenage consequences! What can we do to ensure that our children, our teenagers, and our grown sons and daughters will share their lives with us?
- Know your weaknesses
- Memorize your child’s emotional needs.
- Consistently meet those needs, and you will earn the privilege of being their lifetime confidante, counselor, and coach!