Words Create Worlds
"Words create worlds."
I wish I was the first person to state this, but it's a concept that has anonymously embedded itself into my head from several places I've read it.
It raises a powerful question...
how could the world of a kid or teen in your life be impacted by a word from you today?
I sat one of my sons down recently and told him, "I'm going to say something to you that I don't want you to deflect. I'd like you to just receive this from my heart to yours."
He nodded and opened his posture up to receive whatever came next.
For the next two minutes, I invested as many words of genuine encouragement and affirmation into him that I could. I explained what I thought of him as a son and as an emerging man... how thankful I was that he was trustworthy enough to watch his younger siblings, yet real and inspiring in a way that would make me want to be his best friend if I was his age.
I literally watched his inner world enlarge with every word I uttered.
It reminded me of how when God created the universe, words were His raw material: “He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” (Psalm 33:9)
Words create worlds.
Our words can in one moment help someone who is in mourning over a loss, while in the next moment celebrate with another person who just became a parent.
Both have words. Both need words.
This is also true whenever you speak or listen to your teen. Your words will grow sentiments that birth ideas and nurture convictions.
You see, teenagers uniquely struggle with trying to form long-term thoughts outside their short-term vocabulary. It's a tension that they encounter when anyone walks up to them and asks the classic question, "So, what are you going to do when you're older?"
As a parent, you're uniquely poised with the maturity and perspective to offer them guidance because you straddle two different realms at the same time.
On one hand, you're in the realm of this world and trying to share the things you've learned about the way it works.
On the other hand, you're in the realm of the Kingdom of God and can offer them perspective on the way the world was originally designed to work and can again through our lives.
Sure, it'd be great if your kids actually know what they want to do when they grow up and have a great college experience or job after they graduate.
But Jesus invites them to do more than that, though... to actually follow Him.
It's why I appreciate a metaphor my friend and mentor Dan Webster shared with me years ago. He explained that life is like a grand piano, for if you shout into one there will inevitably be a few strings that begin to vibrate due to how they match the unique pitch of your voice.
Parenting is essentially helping your kids shout into life and understanding what God-given strings end up resonating with them as they do.
All of that begins in the context of an everyday relationship with them. Here are three ways I've found you can foster that and have more significant conversations with your teens:
- Bust up their routine: Surprising teenagers help them to open up, so instead of driving them to school, “kidnap” them for breakfast. They’ll think it’s the coolest thing ever and will likely open up with you about their lives. Drop the “parenting agenda” you might have and don’t lecture or gasp in reaction to what they say… just listen. (and leave your phone in the car so your attention is focused on them alone.)
- Don't be afraid to ask new questions that give deeper insights into their life: If you're a parent, do you know anything about the kids who sit around your kid in different classes as well as who they hang out with? Finding out about what's going on and how they're feeling about the people surrounding them most will uncover what is influencing their thoughts and feelings on a daily basis. Ask open ended, "wondering" questions that invite them into dialogue instead of a "yes" "no" response in an interrogative posture.
- Call up their confidence: One of the most important things young people need to figure out is an appropriate way to stand up for themselves and own their voice. Many teenagers fear judgement, peer exclusion or even disappointing their parents for speaking out about something. By giving them safe opportunities at home to have open dialogue about what they believe in and why, and you can help their need to be heard and give them a place to practice how to do this without retribution. You might not always agree with their opinion---and you certainly don't have to endorse it---but cultivating a relationship where civility and honesty are honored regardless of opinion will teach them important relational skills and foster greater respect for themselves and you.
There’s no way I could assemble the perfect combination of letters, punctuation and spaces that would communicate this perfectly to every reader. Still, here's my best offering at it to help you have your best offering.
Which is sort of what parenting is all about.