Provoking Conversations with Teenagers

Provoking Conversations with Teenagers November 14, 2013

Provoking teenagers probably isn’t on your to-do list today, but if you’re a parent of a teen… then you would probably give your left arm for a recipe to provoke meaningful conversations with your son or daughter.

Teenagers aren’t typically very chatty with their parents. Sometimes it takes dinner and a crowbar to pry any conversation out of them. That’s why last week I proposed using two simple tools to get teenagers talking: discover and provoke.

Last week I told you how to “discover.” This week let’s discuss provoking teenagers into meaningful conversation.

Teenagers aren’t quiet because they don’t have anything to say. Far from it. Most teenagers will talk your ear off… if you can stir them to express themselves about something they’re passionate about. That’s why the first step of this process was discovery (as discussed last week); we need to discover what it is that our kids want to talk about, then provoke them to talk about it.

Let’s say we discover that our daughter loves music by Katy Perry. Ask her questions about Katy’s music. Tread lightly. Don’t appear like you’re trying to collect dirt on Katy. Approach the conversation with a genuine curiosity and see where the conversation takes you. For example:

  • What do you think of Katy’s new album?
  • Which is your favorite song?
  • She got pretty honest about her depression in her song ‘By the Grace of God’. Do you think a lot of young women can relate to her feelings?
  • Can you relate to those feelings?

From Katy Perry to suicidal feelings in five questions (with a little knowledge from my recent blog post about Katy’s music).

Notice that you didn’t start by scaring them off with something like, “Have you ever felt suicidal? Because I’m thinking of having you committed!!!” Instead, you began with a subject they are interested in, and then provoked them to share their feelings about it.

If you  have boys, then they probably won’t want to talk about Katy Perry. But how about these ready-made discussions about The Walking Dead?

This “provoke” methodology takes a little bit of forethought. Keep your eyes open for “conversation-provoking topics” when you read the newspaper or listen to the radio. Subscribe to free youth culture newsletters or blogs that provide you with ammo for these kinds of conversations.

You can find a gold mine of discussion starting articles at any time on the front page of in the box titled, OFFSITE ARTICLES JONATHAN HAS BEEN READING. I consistently link articles of interest to parents on that page, articles and studies about pop culture, teen attitudes, and trends. Like today if you click on that page, you’ll see:

Gaga Speaks Out Against Photoshopping and Forces That Make Women Feel Like They’re Not Beautiful

45% of Millennials say they spend two to ten hours a day on their smartphones

New Selfie Pic App Funded By Bieber That Prevents Cyber Bullying

Share a couple seconds about what you read and then ask your teen their opinion. For example:

  • Did you hear Justin Bieber started a new “selfie pic” app that he hopes will prevent cyber bullying?
  • He doesn’t allow strangers to comment in this app, so people won’t post cruel jabs. Do you think this will work?
  • Why do you think some people are so cruel in comment sections?
  • So many people are so quick to criticize others, do you think there’s a way someone caring could actually make others feel good about themselves? How?

How’s that for a nice segue to Phillipians, Chapter 2.

What can you do to provoke your teen to conversation today?


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