Communication Counts: Teenagers Talk about Their Parents


Editor’s Note: A companion piece to this article on family communication also appears in the March New Era. The two are designed to promote productive family interaction.

“The key is listening.”

“My parents let me have my say.”

“My dad talks things out with me and is very understanding.”

“When I’m upset and I go to my father, sometimes it’s like he’s in a daze and doesn’t listen.”

Judging from responses of randomly selected seminary students from Utah, California, Germany, Spain, Norway, and Guatemala, the biggest factor in not provoking children to anger is communication. Several hundred students wrote their answers to the questions “What do your parents do to avoid provoking you to anger?” and “What should parents do to avoid provoking their children to anger?” More than half of the young people mentioned parents’ listening and having talks with their parents as means of maintaining harmony in the home.

A typical response was written by a student at a seminary in Provo, Utah: “My parents let me have my say. Like if I come home late from some activity and don’t have a justified reason, they let me choose my own punishment. They never yell, they just ask me what punishment I want. If it isn’t harsh enough, they give me what they feel is adequate.

“The other day I got a D-slip from school and didn’t know what kind of punishment I ought to have, so my dad said I couldn’t go to California with my teachers quorum. But for some reason it didn’t make me mad at him, because he didn’t yell at me when he said it, as if he hated me. He just calmly said I couldn’t go unless I could prove to him that I could raise my grade before the trip.”

In addition to communication, the students’ responses centered around these areas:

—expressing affection and letting them know they’re loved

—respecting their privacy, giving them time to be alone, and knocking before entering their rooms.

—setting fair standards for them, taking their suggestions into consideration. (This was particularly mentioned in connection with the use of the family car.)

—helping them deal with anger by giving them a chance to cool off, not teasing them, etc.

—not playing favorites in the family.

Here are some other particularly interesting responses:

“I have six brothers and sisters and our parents never shout at us, no matter what,” says a 17-year-old priest from Norway. “From the time we were small, my mother has always whispered into our ears when she corrected us.”

“If I ask to do something they generally let me, so I don’t have much reason to get angry,” a junior high school seminary student volunteered. “Another thing is that my father is always telling me he loves me (about two or three times a day) and it’s hard to be angry when I know he loves me so much.”

“To me, all they have to do is say ‘I love you and appreciate you.’”

“I think parents should just trust their kids and understand when they do something wrong,” says one girl. “Instead of grounding them or whipping them, they should try to find out why they did it. Sit down with them and have a talk and find out how they feel. Like, just last week I came home late and my parents took away my allowance and told me I could never see my boyfriend again. And I wasn’t even with my boyfriend—I was with five other girls.”

“My parents have always praised anything I have done whether it’s doing the dishes without being asked or getting A’s on my report card. If they didn’t, I would probably feel frustrated and ornery,” admits another student.

“My mom and dad will listen to my side of the story even if I’ve already told it to them a hundred times. They are always there to guide and direct.”

“My mother and father love me and they sure aren’t afraid to show their love. They aren’t afraid to admit that they are wrong. I have been taught to admit my mistakes and that really helps all of us get along. My mom and dad are divorced. That doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I see my dad almost every holiday. He shows real love for us and he really does care. He calls us about once every two weeks. That runs up a telephone bill, but my dad puts his love before money. My mom and I aren’t just a mother and a daughter, we are best friends. We talk about everything from cooking to boys. She understands me more than anyone will ever know.

“The thing that really keeps me and my mom together is our honesty toward each other. She tells me her problems and asks my advice! She makes me feel like an adult person. She helps my brothers feel like men. When we needed our antenna up for our television, she was really hesitant, but she bit her lip and let my brothers put it up. Mom has taught my 9-year-old sister and me to cook. She does many things with us.

“My dad teaches my brothers and has a lot of faith in them. He trusts us all and is very open with us. So is our mother.

“All of these things, plus many things words can’t describe, cause me to love, respect, and care for my parents. I only pray I can be the kind of parent to my children that my mom and dad have been to me.”

A 16-year-old from Spain feels “it would be better if they would listen to me a little to see how I feel about something. After they have explained the problem to me, I would like them to counsel me and tell me what they would do in my place.”

“I have very good parents who have always raised me in the gospel,” says a 16-year-old boy from Frankfurt, Germany. “We don’t have a generation gap in our family, and I think it’s because my parents consciously try to avoid arguments with their children.

“They let me make my own decisions. They give counsel and their opinions, but they try not to force me to do anything. They ask for my opinions and respect them.”