by michael on April 26, 2011

Moments ago I received a Tweet from my dear friend, Matteo Recanatini, linking me to this article. Nonversations: When talking to your teen is one-sided.

I was dazzled by the creative play on words, Nonversation. I clicked on the link and, to my delight, noted that the article was written by a consultant with whom I had been communicating,. Vanessa Van Petten. I had spoken to Vanessa several times in addition to exchanging many emails. She is sharp, insightful and in every regard a credit to her field. Here is the link to the article: Vanessa now does writing and or blogging for CNN.

Here are a few key paragraphs.

Do you ever feel like conversing with your teen is like talking to a slouching, eye-rolling, well-coiffed mute? If so, you are not alone.
Mom of three, Gabby Long laments, “Sometimes when my son gets in the car on the way home from school and we try to talk. It’s really just me asking him a string of questions and getting one-word responses. Actually, on a bad day, I am lucky if I get a monosyllabic grunt.”

This is only inflamed when family discussions end up being about logistics or unimportant issues like weekend schedules or meals. I call this typical parenting communication trap a “nonversation.”
What is being said not only lacks meaning, but also nothing is really being shared between the participants. In this way, both parties leave the nonversation feeling empty, frustrated and alone.

In the points below, parents can see why this is happening and how to address it.
Problem: Kids feel badgered.

Cause: Teens often confuse a parent’s general interest in their well-being as another way of nagging them.
Solution: Every child has a different rhythm. Some kids are very talkative after school but fall silent at meals. Others are usually at their surliest after sports practice but warm up after homework is done.
Problem: Unfortunately, kids nowadays would rather be (and are more comfortable with) communicating through devices.

Cause: According to the Pew Research Center, 76% of 12-to-17-year-olds have cell phones.
In the car on the way home from school, when dad stops by his child’s bedroom and even at the dinner table, parents are competing with iPod music, texting and Facebook updates when they are trying to engage their already engaged teenager.
Solution: Technology is blurring the traditional lines between home, school and social life. If parents can help bring these lines back into the home, they will have an easier time not only connecting with their teenager, but also engaging them in the offline world.

Parents can do this by creating no-technology areas in the home — the dining room or dinner table, for example, and having nonelectronic times where kids can do whatever they want but it cannot be on a device.
So how do you make a nonversation a conversation? If parents ask the right questions during their child’s natural talkative times and avoid competition with devices, the communication lines will open up.

Read the complete article. Vanessa affirms one of my foundational themes: that parents are competing against the world for their children’s ‘mindspace’ and moral authority. Vanessa gives concrete easily implemented advice. Great job, Vanessa!!

More later

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sheila Dunnells, Ph.D. April 26, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Michael, you are truly a generous soul. To share your celebrity with a newbie to the world of Internet writing is most generous. I can’t thank you enough for all the mentions I have received from you. I am truly enjoying The Good, The Bad and The Difference. My son will get to borrow it when I am finished. He said this weekend, “You know, mom, my priorities have changed. My role now is to help my son grow up to be a stand-up guy, with a strong moral foundation. I am never sure what I did right to have such a wonderful son but he is a gem.

You might get a kick out of his web: Donegal X Press.

Again Michael. Thank you for your help.




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