Kump Education Center

Kump Education Center
401 Randolph Avenue
P.O. Box 1106
Elkins, WV 26241

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Feb 5, 2015

What-Do-You-Know Conversations

by Dr. Healther Biola, Kump Education Center Executive Director

Starting a conversation with an adolescent can be awkward.  The classic scenario is when the parent says, “Where did you go?” and the teenager answers, “Out.”  Parent, “What did you do?” Teen, “Nothing.” Obviously the lines of communication are closed.

If the lines of communication are going to remain open between adults and adolescents, they must respect one another and find common interests.  As teenagers begin to have ideas of their own, adults need to be willing to show respect for the right of the younger person to have personal convictions even if they may be wrong.  

Being the parent or teacher who has all the right answers is not be the best way to open the lines of communication or help the adolescent mind develop.  Know-it-all adults miss the opportunity to help teens develop their vocabulary, fact finding habits, and critical thinking skills.

The best way to open lines of communication is to ask teens what they know and think about issues that come up in daily life or in the news media.  Adolescents need to talk with adults in order to develop their vocabulary and critical thinking skills in the context of adult conversation. 

In French tradition the tone of dinner conversation between fathers and sons is almost like intellectual sparring.  They may debate a political issue or scientific theory at the table for weeks.  The key idea is that the father and son respect each other’s intelligence enough to explore hypothetical concepts together.  Agreement is respectfully not required.

If adults can admit that they do not have all the answers and would like to learn more themselves, finding new information on the internet or in printed material can raise the conversation to a higher level.  Recognizing intellectual equality is the essence of real respect, and it gives rise to the habit of shared curiosity that can span the generation gap.