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Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Get Your Teenager Talking" (Jonathan McKee)

TITLE: Get Your Teenager Talking: Everything You Need to Spark Meaningful Conversations
AUTHOR: Jonathan McKee
PUBLISHER: Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, (176 pages).

"How's your day today?"

If you get one word answers like, "Fine," "same-old," "whatever," or simply a shrug of "ok," you are probably dealing with a teenager. Indeed, getting this age group to talk is like opening clamshells. The default mode is shut. Only their peers can get them to open up. How then do parents and concerned adults connect with this group of people?

Even though parents and adults were once teenagers, it can be really difficult for intergenerational communications. Youth culture guru Jonathan McKee has put together five quick tips on how to get teenagers to open up, plus 180 examples called "conversation springboards." The five tips are:

  1. Ask open ended questions
  2. Avoid asking dull questions
  3. Plan and think ahead
  4. Use controversy
  5. Observe first, speak later

These five tips are essential to avoid turning conversations into boring monologues into active dialogues. The rest of the book makes use of a combination of these five tips to help sustain a meaningful conversation with the teenager. Each "conversational springboard" begins with a spark of contemporary topic or interesting scenario. A few follow-up questions are quickly suggested to sustain the small flame of interest. Exceptionally brief and equipped with pithy statements, each springboard is easy to use and cleverly stirs anyone not just to respond but want to say something about it. Here are some notable springboards:

  • Career guidance: "If you could have any occupation in the world, what would you want to do, and why?" (#17)
  • Self-Esteem: "Name an Accomplishment you are most proud of." (#30)
  • Family: "Who do you admire the most in our immediate family?" (#45)
  • Companionship: "If you got lost in a foreign country for a few days, who would you want with you, and why?" (#53)
  • Maturity: "Where do you realistically see yourself in ten years?" (#82)
  • Knowledge/Reflection: "Of all the books you have read, what has been the most impactful?" (#85)
  • Introspection: "Fast-forward thirty years. What is the best compliment someone could give you about your children?" (#137)
  • ...

These and many more are essential tools to help spark meaningful conversations with teenagers. That said, it really takes someone who knows teenagers to come up with such a long list of ideas. At the same time, every teenager is unique, and uniquely different from one another. What works for one may not work for another. The key is that anyone using the book need to be as discerning as well. For example, the questions on cartoons may seem a little childish. The one about books may not appeal to those who do not like to read. The one on remembering a deceased may come across as too painful. Thus, having the book alone does not mean one has all the answers. Discernment and care need to be used to ensure that we be sensitive to the feelings of teenagers.

Perhaps, for parents who are exasperated about their clammed-up teenager, as long as one springboard question can begin the conversation, the book would have worth every cent. Those working or are interested in all things youth will certainly benefit from this book.

Rating: 4.24 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Bethany House Publishers and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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