by Mathew McDill, April 2020

I had a meeting with my oldest son yesterday. It was our weekly scheduled meeting. 

He sat down and said, “Do you have anything to say?” I laughed because this was a strange way to start the conversation. I assumed that he was asking because he didn’t have any particular educational or life topics to bring up and we were headed toward a short meeting. Boy was I wrong! 

“If you don’t, I have something I want to talk with you about.” 

Then my son, who is normally short on words and personal interaction, unloaded some very heavy topics he was dealing with. He is facing some serious interpersonal, moral, and worldview challenges at work. Normal life stuff. Stuff we all have to deal with eventually. I am so glad he is dealing with it while he is still at home. Most importantly, I am glad that he is willing to talk with me about it. He shared the raw details. He shared his thoughts and struggles. He was open to advice and direction.

I am convinced that if we did not have this scheduled appointment, that this conversation may not have happened. Many conversations like this come up in unplanned conversations with my kids. But I have a lot of kids, so private, unplanned conversations are rare. 

I have made it a priority to have closed door, one-on-one conversations with my kids, especially the older ones. Making it a priority means putting it on the calendar. There have been times that I knew I needed to have these private conversations with my kids, and I determined to keep a look out for the opportunities to come along. Some did, but not enough. Not nearly enough. 

So now I have scheduled, weekly, one-on-one meetings with each of my teens.

Maybe a scheduled meeting wouldn’t go over so well with your teen right now. Here’s a great way to start: take them out for lunch, coffee, or dessert. Be prepared with questions. Have a good time. And listen. Ask more questions and keep listening. Don’t offer unsolicited advice. Listen. This will be a solid start toward the kind of relationship you’d like to have. 

If you have any questions or tips for parenting teens, leave them in the comments below.

Matthew McDill and his wife, Dana, live in Clemmons, NC, with six of their nine children. Matthew has been in pastoral ministry for over twenty-five years and is now the executive director for North Carolinians for Home Education. He earned his M.Div. and Ph.D. at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and authored the book Loving God: A Practical Handbook for Discipleship. Matthew loves to teach from God’s Word, especially on topics related to family relationships, discipleship, parenting and home education.