Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Failure to Communicate Widens the Generation Gap

When Jason didn’t come home after baseball practice, Sandra started to wonder why. An hour later, Jason still hadn’t arrived and he hadn’t called. She called him, but Jason didn’t answer, so she left a message. Another hour passed, and it was time to start dinner. But first she called his coach. He said Jason had been a no-show at practice. When scary scenarios started rushing through her mind, she called her husband Roger, who was on his way home. “If he’s not back by the time I get there, I’ll start calling around,” he said.

Ten minutes later, the front door opened and Jason walked in. Without saying a word, he headed straight for his room. Sandra followed him, but Jason slammed the bedroom door behind him.

She shouted through the door: “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick.”

“None of your business. Leave me alone.”

“Of course it’s my business! I had no idea where you were. Your coach said you skipped practice. I was afraid something might have happened to you.”

“Aaagh!” A loud groan came through the door. “You called Coach? What's the deal, Mom? Are you spying on me now? Can’t I have a life without you watching every move I make?”

“Please come out. You can tell me about it while I make dinner.”

“My god, can’t I have a little privacy around here? I don’t want any dinner! Go away and leave me alone!”

The anger in her son’s voice was like a physical blow. Who is this child? Where is my little boy?

Sandra had no idea how to handle this situation. Something was wrong. Maybe Jason was in trouble, but she couldn’t imagine what it could be. She felt she ought to say something, but she was literally at a loss for words. Afraid of making the situation worse, she returned to the kitchen. Feeling helpless and inadequate as a mother, she collapsed into a chair and started crying.

When Roger came home, he found Sandra in the kitchen. After listening to her tearful account, he exploded. He charged down the hall and banged on Jason’s door.

“Open the door,” he commanded.

“Leave me alone, Dad.”

“I said open the door!” His voice was loud and threatening. Jason unlocked the door, and his father rushed in and grabbed him by the arm.

“What's going on, boy? Why didn’t you go to practice? Why were you so late coming home? Where were you? What do you think gives you the right to talk to your mother that way?”

“Let go of me, Dad.”

“Answer me, I said!”

Jason tried to struggle free, but his father’s grip tightened painfully. “Nothing happened. It’s nothing.”

“What do you mean, nothing? You were rude to your mother. I want you to go apologize to her and tell us what the hell is going on.”

“Let go of me!” he shouted as he furiously pushed his father away. Roger lost his balance, knocking down a lamp. He found himself sitting on the floor as his son ran out the door. Before Roger could do anything about it, his son had left the house.

They called everyone who might know where he is. Around midnight, Jason called. He said he didn’t feel safe at home. Sandra begged him to come home, and he did. But they still didn’t know what was going on or how to deal with it.

Later, when everyone calmed down, a kind of truce prevailed. They found out that Jason had skipped practice to hang out with his buddies at an arcade in the mall. He was having so much fun that he lost track of time. What set him off was the way his mother seemed to make a big deal over nothing. He resented his parents trying to control his life. He felt he had a right to his privacy.

In the long run, the incident wasn’t the end of the world. Neither Sandra nor Roger ever again lost their composure when dealing with their son, but the incident changed their relationship. Some of the intimacy they once had with Jason had been lost, along with a measure of trust and respect. The classic generation gap was widened by the inability to communicate effectively.

And in the grand scheme of things, these are the good parents. But actions have consequences. and none of their actions included good communication skills. Not Sandra. Not Roger. And not Jason. These skills aren't taught in schools. In the world we live in now, very few parents get the chance to learn the kind of communication skills that would have prevented this uproar from happening.

That's why we created ProStar Coach. It has the best online system for developing communication skills you'll find anywhere. And a whole lot more.

The above excerpt was taken from my book for teen boys, Conversations with the Wise Uncle.

A similar book for teen girls - Conversations with the Wise Aunt.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use photo purchased from fotolia.net)

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