a teenagers cry for help

A teenager’s cry for help

The setting: Every Sunday, A mother and 2 of her teenage kids, girl 17, boy 15, all come to clean and help around the house. The boy was just talking about his new phone the previous week, and this week he told me that his mom took his phone away again.  They were on break, so they were gathered around the table eating their lunch.  When the boy said that, I decided to sit down with them and initiate a dialogue, and see if my advice could help.

(Me) “Where is your phone?”  Boy smiles with a hint of sadness and a bigger hint of guilt;  “ My mom took it away again.”  (Me, looking to my right, I see his Mom, who’s sitting across from him with a frustrated- disappointing face.)  She then looks at me and back to him with a reaction of sarcasm:  “he’s lazy!”  The boy reacts with that same smile again, but adds a chuckle full of embarrassment.   I immediately put my game-face on!  It’s called the Listening Game.  I look at the boy with a very firm, but compassionate look, and say: “what frustrates you about your classes?  Do you find your teacher to not be a good listener?”  (You see I automatically assume it’s the teacher’s fault, because that’s the way he sees it.  In order to communicate with a teenager, you MUST put yourself in their shoes, and blame the other person.  Assume that they have already tried asking for help!  That’s how you get in their “listening radar”, no matter what’s correct, right, or what you believe.  If you want to get through to them, you MUST see what they are seeing.  Then you will gain opportunity to guide them through a different way of thinking. ) Now, to get back to my question I asked him: “ What frustrates you about your classes?  With a shocked, almost like a disbelief reaction, that someone actually cares, he started explaining. It just pored out of him. I listened to every word. He talked for a good 20 minuets.  (You see teenagers are full of imagination and open to learning and listening, EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO THEIR MOTHER, FATHER OR SOMEONE THAT IS TAKING CARE OF THEM.  Then all they see is a person that wants to judge and not care about their truth.  It’s unfortunate, but that’s just what teenagers believe. ADULTS ONLY CARE ABOUT JUDGING, NOT LISTENING! The good news is; a belief system can always change based on reactions they see and hear.)

Ok, back to the conversation the boy and I are having.  He’s going on and on about how the teacher doesn’t care, and will continue to fail me, because everyone has partners and his partner will not participate, so it’s not fair that he fails, because his partner refuses to participate in the assignment. I told the boy that if you don’t like the way the teacher is treating you, then TEACH THAT TEACHER HOW TO TREAT YOU BETTER.  Well of course the boy quickly went silent. He looked clueless and shocked that I was taking his side. I explained to him, that just verbally telling your teacher what’s bothering you, will not do it. People don’t take things seriously until they see it on paper.  When you write it down, that shows your teacher and anyone who reads it, that you value that person, because you are putting EFFORT into explaining yourself in writing. Words, believe it or not, are easy, but no one likes writing, because it takes effort and thought.

I then explained to him, that if you don’t want to learn the way the teacher is instructing you too, then create learning tools that work for you. For example, the teacher says, read a book on how to add 2 + 2, well if you find that book to be difficult, read it at least once, then create some other ways, like watching a YouTube video.  There are so many avenues to choose from.

I then explained that maybe you don’t need math right now, today, but one or 2 years from now, you are going to want to save money for a car, or a future place to live, or something that’s important to you, and math, or other learning skills, may be harder or you just may not have the time to learn them like you do now.

Last but not least, I told him the most important thing he needed to master, was communication!  I explained that if you wrote your mom a letter explaining what’s going on, or write a letter to your teacher, and if you see no results, show that to your mom, I bet you she wouldn’t just take your phone away.  I bet she would call or even go to the school and have a meeting with that teacher or your principal.  Communication is KEY, to manifesting anything and everything in life!!!

As he seemed to be engaged with what I was enthusiastically explaining, a few tears fell from his eyes. He took the tip of his sweatshirt, and wiped his eyes with it, in a discreet way.

I left the conversation there, gave him a hug, and went into another room.  I called out to his mom, and asked him to come here, that I wanted to show her something.  When she came in, I was talking to her briefly.  She explained with tears, that he doesn’t care about school or anything, and he’s on medication for H.A.D.D.  She then said she tries to talk to him, but he won’t tell her what’s going on.  She continued on, saying that he’s in therapy, because he used to cut himself on purpose.  As she went on with this information about him, my mind wondered and I checked-out for a moment, thinking to myself, “I never realized just how much pain this boy is in.”  A couple minutes later, As my thoughts faded and I checked back in to her voice,  I gave her a hug and explained with a hopeful tone; “he seems to be interested in a new way of communicating with his teachers, so lets wait see how this week goes.”  She wiped her tears and we both walked back into the other room.


(boy) “I did it! I did it!”  He had explained that he observed and wrote what was bothering him, and why he was having a hard time completing his assignments. He then told me that his teacher was shocked and quiet for a second, but then had a long talk with him, and told him her account info for the one assignment, and how she would be his partner for that assignment. His grades are starting to improve in just 5 days. He’s in a better mood and so is his mom.  He still hasn’t received his phone back, but his mom is defiantly thinking about it, now that she sees his grades have improved.

I am posting this, not to have a pat on the back, but to be a voice for so many teenagers out there, who feel misunderstood.  When teenagers feel misunderstood, they have a tendency to shut down and ignore every adult who tries to “HELP” them.  Teenagers are still trying to find themselves in a discreet way.  Any attention brought with what they believe is judgment, they will shutdown and space out into a safe place…