Have you ever tried reading books together with your preteen or teenager? Did you discover that your kid has already formulated their own views, possibly different from your own? What benefits or challenges did you experience in your relationship with your child from reading together?
Rev. Andy Ching has read books together with his son since he was in middle school but their connection didn’t start there. It all began when he noticed his son only giving him short responses and answers when he came home from school. He wondered why his son would talk more about his day with his mom when they played together or when she helped him get ready for bed. Realizing that he needed to do more to connect with his son, Rev. Ching remembered that the people who influenced him the most growing up were those who spent time with him. So, he sought to spend time with his son doing what his son enjoyed most: soccer.
Rev. Ching enrolled his son into a local soccer league and volunteered for several years. It was through driving to practices and games that he began to talk more with his son and found that his son had his own thinking and didn’t just go along with what his dad thought. In the preteen years, especially, he noticed his son becoming independent and learning to take in information, process, weigh pros and cons and make decisions for himself about different topics. Though many parents see this as the rebellious stage, Rev. Ching saw it as a necessary step for growing up into an adult and learning to make his own decisions. He knew that this stage was not good for lecturing.
Seeing that his son also enjoyed reading books, Rev. Ching suggested to his son that they read a book together and discuss one chapter a week over breakfast on Saturday mornings. During these times, Rev. Ching practiced listening to his son and asking questions when his son didn’t agree with what the author said. He encouraged his son to explain what he learned from the author.
With the hopes of indirectly teaching his son, Rev. Ching always chose books where he agreed with the author’s values. That way, he didn’t have to argue with his son or get into a conflict. Instead, he encouraged his son to “debate” with the author and asked him how he would talk to the author, even asking his son what he would do if the author was his teacher or in an authoritative position over him. Such questions created an atmosphere of discussion and allowed Rev. Ching the opportunity to pay attention and listen to his son’s views.
He also made sure to never conclude the conversation in a conflicting manner. If he didn’t agree with his son’s viewpoints, he would simply say, “Interesting,” “Let me think about that,” or “What will you do about your thinking?” In such scenarios, he encouraged parents to just listen, don’t react and don’t be nervous over what your child says. If parents stay calm and wait a bit longer to actually observe their child’s behavior, they may find that their teenager is just coming up with ideas and not necessarily following through with their thoughts. Especially if their family relationship is close, most children will usually follow their family.
Overall, Rev. Ching shared that the best thing he has gotten out of reading books with his son has been a good friendship. His son knows that his dad is not dogmatic, authoritative, and unreasonable. He knows he can share whatever he thinks with his dad. Rev. Ching shared that he hopes parents can learn to release their control in respect to their child’s growth. No matter what age a child is, they have their own thinking and can make some decisions. If parents are willing to let go of some of their control, learn to listen, and spend some time giving their child one-on-one attention, they can help their children grow and mature so that when their child becomes an adult, they will be ready to make wise decisions and be willing to share a mutually respectful relationship with their parents.
Written by: Elizabeth Hughes