How to talk to parents about parenting

Over the past year or so I’ve had the opportunity to lead an hour-long seminars for parents. In fact, earlier this year partnered with Simply Youth Ministry & Marko to turn the content of my seminar into a book that comes out in a few weeks, A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media.

For me, this has meant going to churches and presenting content without knowing a thing about the context of the church. Sure, I can figure out some things just by driving around or overhearing small talk in the foyer.

What I’ve found is that my posture is working. In other words, my content doesn’t change and my presentation style really doesn’t change very much to fit the context. But I’ve learned that by having a posture with these 3 elements that parents are willing to give me the benefit of the doubt and learn from me.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Leading a family is not unlike leading anyone else. You have to lead by example. And when you have teenagers in your house– they can smell hypocrisy on your breath. So when I talk to parents I spend a fair amount of time talking about our own habits, weaknesses, and troubles.

So I give specific examples, in both positive and negative ways, that my own children are learning from me. And I also give a strong encouragement that parent’s lead by example.

I know– that’s not revolutionary. But it is a posture.

Put Panic to Rest, Embrace Learning

As a communicator I know that I can use fear to my advantage. I can scare the hell out of parents and leave them furiously writing everything down. But here’s my observation, narrowed down into superlative so that you get my point:

  • Most parenting stuff uses fear because it’s an easy way to grab concerned parents attention. But I think it leads parents into a survival mode of parenting, that they can’t succeed and that they should be somehow afraid of what their teenager might do.
  • The best parenting stuff is grounded in fact, research, and and reasonable advice.

So skip the fear talk and just give folks the information they need so they can digest it and adapt what you are teaching to their families.

I think the single most useful thing I do in my parenting seminar is give parents a framework for finding the information they need to continue learning about a topic. In general, people are learners. So when you talk to them from a perspective a fellow learner, you get pretty far pretty quickly.

Teach Principles, Not Rules

This is especially true in my subject matter, social media. But I learned as a youth pastor that if I teach things in principled ways it’s better than teaching, “Do this, not that” stuff.

To me, it’s easy to teach people what to do. But it really changes them to teach them how to think about stuff.

Let’s get better together! Share your tips for teaching parents in comments below.



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2 responses to “How to talk to parents about parenting”

  1. UltimateYouthWorker Avatar

    Hey Adam, Great post. We are currently putting topgether some seminars and resources for parents around drug and alcohol abuse. We were looking at stats which scared us and we already knew most of it. After reading this we will be looking towards a learning framework rather than a fear one. Thanks for your amazing insight.

  2. […] Adam McLane: How to talk to parents about parenting – This is always is a tricky area to address, particularly if you’re a youth worker who […]

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