As a parent, do you find yourself feeling like…

“My teenager would rather talk to anyone but me.”

“Why does my son or daughter value their friends’ opinions over mine?”

Mom or dad, if this is you, lean in and read this short expose. My hope is that you will apply my top four tips to improve your parent—teen relationships!  Hi, my name is Josiah Wright and I am the Vice President of Tomorrow’s Leaders Today (TLT), the student government division of iDENTIFY Leadership. My involvement in this organization has given me many opportunities to learn about myself and my relationships.  From my teen perspective, it would be an honor to help you, as a parent, to better understand your teen. I’d like to introduce you to four ideas I know will help: Freedom Over Fear, Leading by Example, Keeping Your Love On, and “HOT” Communication. These tips should help shed light on the role your teen wants you to play in their lives.

1.Freedom Over Fear

“It’s crucial that when we see or talk to people, regardless of the circumstance bearing down on us, we see or feel somebody that believes in us and loves us.” – Heidi Baker

Fear can be one of the most difficult things to overcome, especially if it has been present for a long time.  It can have a major influence in the choices we make.  Teens desire to experience security and freedom in their relationships, but commonly struggle when it comes to their parents. Fear of being punished and fear that they’re not able to measure up to the standard set by their parents is a great hindrance to open and free relationships. My personal experience, and I am usually a more closed off person, is that when I do something wrong I am generally afraid to tell my parents in fear of disappointing them. If they recognized this, they could create a safe space for me to communicate by assuring me that I am free to express myself without fear of punishment or disappointment. This would be so freeing.

2. Leading by Example

“It’s the leader’s (parent’s) job to be the example of love and forgiveness.”- Danny silk

Parents, it’s very important that your teens look to you as an example in each situation and for all types of problems.  I do realize that we sometimes do dumb things.  Even we often look back and think, “Why in the world did I do that?” Seeing how my parents handled things, even in the most ridiculous circumstances, plays a big role in how I will handle those situations myself in the future.  So, for example, if as a parent, you demonstrate unforgiveness in relationships, it’s very likely your teens will emulate that behavior in their relationships.

3.“KYLO! Keep Your Love On!”

“Trust goes both ways, but starts with the leader (parent) in the relationship!” – Danny silk

Trust is a big deal. Another way to describe trust is keeping your love on. Keeping your love on can be described as making your primary goal in relationships to move towards closeness and connection. So, when we are being transparent and telling you (parents) how we feel, we are keeping our love on. We need you to help us. Hint: if we aren’t talking to you, it’s because we are having a hard time trusting or keeping our love on.  “KYLO! Keep Your Love On!” By Danny silk

4.Healthy Communication

“Communication must be HOT. That’s Honest, Open, and Two-way.” -Dan Oswald

Sometimes when I have something wrong and I don’t know how to talk about it with my parents, I hope and pray that my dad or mom would somehow initiate talking about the subject, simply because it feels awkward for me.  Teens can feel dirty talking about things they feel guilty about. At times, I will play out a conversation in my head, but the outcome is never good if I am living from a place of fear. I need to be reminded in those dark places that my parents always want the best for me in life. Things rarely get resolved in a healthy fashion until parents sit down with their teens and remind them that it is safe for us to be honest with them. It is usually effective to ask yes and no questions. So, when we seem standoffish, it is likely because we are confused and don’t know how to talk to you, not that we don’t want to talk to you.

With these four tips, you can have HOT (Honest, Open, and Two-way) communication between you and your teen, and can move out of Fear into Freedom and Lead by Example. Parents, please remember, it is so worth it to Keep Your Love On and make the main goal in your relationship to close the distance between you and your teen.

WATCH: Tomorrow’s Leader Today, TLT Daniella Hernandez’s VLOG about Communication Transformation