The television commercial was about a Senior Adult program that encouraged others to work with them and to treat them with respect and honor. To talk to them, to be normal person with them and just get to know them, hang out with them, and be normal. The commercial said to use the PALS program. PALS stands very simply and yet profoundly:
- Pay attention
- Ask questions
- Listen to them
- Support them
I have seen this commercial several times and each time I think about parents and their students in our student ministry. What if we used the PALS program in dealing with our students from day to day, eating together, or just hanging out. It would play out something like this:
- Pay attention to the things your student is saying, or talking about, or not talking about. Things like music, school, text messages, that friend that is driving them crazy or that new gadget that they just have to have. Pay attention to them as they are just talking about nothing.
- Ask questions. Now as a parent, pay attention to this part, ask questions that are not accusational or confrontational but communication questions about stuff that they are talking about. These questions are not really deep at this point so don't go there. Just ask surface questions that they have been talking about. (Hint, if you do this well you can go deeper later because they will open up to you about those things as you learn to be PALS.)
- Listen to them. Spend time listening to your student as they talk to you. Listen to them to learn more about your student. This is not a time to find out dirt so you can "clean house" but a time to listen and connect. IF you find out something that concerns you about your conversation, tuck that away and pull it out later on and talk about some other time. IF you do it while you are listening now, you will destroy your time of relationship building.
- Support them. Now is the time to laugh with them, cut up, have fun and be a friend, as well as being a parent. Support your student as they are thinking about that crazy hair cut, or new outfit, maybe the special food that they want to try. Supporting them doesn't mean you have to say yes, but you support them by walking them thought the thinking process about what they are wanting to try or experiment with. Let's face it if they learn the process of thinking through this process, they can do it on seriously important issues later on.
So tomorrow when you sit down with your student or you pick them up from school think about the PALS system and see if it works for you. Sure it will be awkward at first because as adults we talk so much more than we listen but give it some time, cause it will work. PALS will work for the parents of teens if the parent will work at it and be there pal.