Posted on: 05/13/14 5:00 AM | by Jonathan McKee

teenagers-listening-parentsI’m working on a brand new Parenting Help article that will be featured on the front page of next week. I thought I’d give you, my blog subscribers, a first peek at it and throw me some feedback.

Which do you think is a more effective way to teach today’s young people how to make good decisions?

“You should do this.”


“What do you think you should do?”

It’s funny how often parents, mentors, and youth pastors end up becoming the voice of “you should” or “you should not” in a young person’s life.

“Don’t listen to that song, it’s bad.”

“Don’t drink alcohol, it’s bad.”

What are these kids going to do when they get on their own… call us up and ask us what to do?

What if, instead of telling young people what to do, we began helping them learn to make decisions by asking them, “What should you do?”

Last week I wrote a free resource for you that we posted on our MUSIC DISCUSSIONS pages both on and using the new hit song, Turn Down for What. This popular song basically says, get high, get drunk and crazy, and don’t listen to anyone who tells you to stop. What reason is there to stop?

The question is, what is the most effective way to get our kids thinking about the message of this song? We could stand up on our soapbox and start whining about how dirty today’s music is and ban our kids from streaming it. If our kids like the song, do you think this approach will get them to open up about the song, or clam up?

What if we asked them questions about the song?

That’s what I did in this music discussion. I provided you with questions to ask about the topic of the song:

Why do you think the topic of losing control and doing what you want is so popular in music today?

What do you think people are looking for when they engage in activities that help them “lose control”? Do you think they find it?

Then I shared some scripture and a sobering study from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs and asked questions like…

What are some of the results that can happen when you light up or drink a ‘nother round of shots?

What are some truths in this verse that seem to jump out at you in contrast to the message of the song?

What does it mean, “Don’t act thoughtlessly”? How does that apply to this song?

What does the verse tell us to be filled with?

Questions help us move from monologue to dialogue and get them talking. Furthermore, they require our kids to come up with the conclusions themselves. After all, some day very soon they are going to have to do this on their own. Are you equipping them for that day?

My wife and I have found that this method of asking questions works much better with our kids. One of our kids in particular, is like Gus from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The only way to get Gus to do something was to make him think of it himself. You might remember Toula pointing this out to her mom:

Toula Portokalos: Ma, Dad is so stubborn. What he says goes. “Ah, the man is the head of the house!”

Maria Portokalos: Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.

You might remember the scene where they sat down with Gus and asked him for advice about who should work at the travel agency, while all along they knew the answer. They just needed Gus to come up with the answer for himself.

Many of our kids can be just like Gus. We just need to lead them to discovering the answer for themselves.

We do this by presenting them with truth and asking questions.

We do this by moving from “You should” to “Should you?”

Which method do you use?Get-Your-Teenager-Talking


2 Replies to “Moving from YOU SHOULD to SHOULD YOU?”

  1. i think it’s a great article and a perfect approach to the front page of thesourceforparents. i have a request though – i would love to read that study from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Is there a link to a website where I could find out more details on the study or was it published in a periodical or book? Either way – great job on the article; it definitely made me think about the way my wife and I are parenting our kids. (We are more the “What do you think you should do?” type BTW)

  2. Well well well,
    I definately think the question approach is the best we can use to minister to our young men and women.I pastor the youth group at my church and i have come to know that tell some ne, most especially the teenagers what to do suck…!!! So on that note i so much agree with you Jonny.
    Great article my brother worth sharing on my page.

    Ian Muwonge

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