Recognizing Rhythms to Get Your Teen Talking

Have you ever had a conversation with your teenager that went something like this:

Hi! How was your day?


Anything interesting or fun?


Well, what was the best thing that happened today?


Okay, then, what was the worst thing?


How did your test go?

Mom, just stop.

But I love to hear about your day!

I said, STOP!!!

There’s a reason movies and TV shows often depict despondent teens staring out the window or stomping up the stairs and slamming their bedroom door. Adolescence is a time of hormonal chaos and growing independence. For the most part, our teens have no idea what is happening inside or around them, let alone how to describe it to someone else. They need time and space to process before opening up.

Despite how the above conversation makes you feel, your teen doesn’t hate you! He or she simply doesn’t feel like “spilling the tea” right after school. You may be asking all the right questions, just at the wrong time or in the wrong way.

Take advantage of their rhythms.

Teens have certain rhythms—patterns and trends of how and when they are willing to talk. Knowing these rhythms can make all the difference in reaching a teen’s heart, which is essential for building relationships. How in the world do we figure out what those rhythms are? It’s pretty simple—we just have to pay attention. Here are some practical ways to help you discover and take advantage of your teen’s rhythms.

Pray for discernment.

The best place to start is to pray for discernment. Sometimes, we think we know everything about our teens, and sometimes, we feel lost, as if we have no idea where to begin. This is absolutely normal. They probably feel the same way!

Thankfully, there is One who knows them better than they know themselves. He knows what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling, and what they need most. Nothing is hidden from Him. If we take the time to ask the Lord to reveal when our teens are most open, He will do it.

We can pray for our kids to get caught when they sin. The Lord can help us recognize when our teens are being dishonest or hiding something to know when they need encouragement. We can ask Him to prepare their hearts and ours and to guide our conversations. And when we know something is up with them, we can ask the Lord to help us keep our mouths shut until He knows they are ready to talk.

Taking the time to pray for discernment will help us more clearly see their patterns and rhythms.

Look for patterns.

Once you’ve prayed, be intentional about looking for patterns by paying attention to timing, place, topics, and moods.


In the conversation above, the issue was obviously timing. If you know your teen is unlikely to open up right after school, should you continue to ask about her day? Sure, that way, they know you’re interested. And who knows? You might get lucky! But you don’t need to push the issue or take the lack of conversation personally. Instead, you can start looking for when your son or daughter does tend to open up. This is different for every teen, but one thing is for sure— it is almost always when it is least convenient for us!

If you have an early riser, it might be when they first get up in the morning. Or they may consistently want to tell you stories while you’re cooking dinner or checking email. I’ve found that most teens come alive at bedtime. For whatever reason, their defenses seem to come down at night, and it’s easier for them to talk and listen.

So take advantage of their timing! When they are ready to talk, let’s choose to listen.


Another thing to notice is where your teen tends to open up. Some teens open up more quickly after being in the car for a while. It’s also not unusual for teens who shut down in face-to-face conversations to respond better while engaged in some sort of activity together— yard work, cleaning out the car, folding laundry— because the pressure is off. My theory is they feel too exposed when the focus is on them. Having somewhere else for both of you to look makes them feel less exposed, allowing them actually to be a little more vulnerable.

When one of our boys wants to tell me something important, he pulls me into our guest bedroom. I have learned that if he calls me in there, he’s ready to talk, and I need to put my game face on and get ready to listen.


It is also essential that we listen to the seemingly unimportant things. This plays a significant role in recognizing their rhythms. Think about it—when does your teen typically hit you up to watch TikTok or YouTube videos? Do they often end your family dinner conversation by filling you in on the latest episode of their favorite show? Pay attention, friends!

These opportunities can help lead to conversations that are sometimes challenging to know how to approach. Knowing what topics get your teen talking and when they like to talk about them can also help you take advantage of their rhythms in order to initiate conversation.


Moodiness is a thing, especially for hormonal teenagers. If we try to enter conversations when our teens are already upset or defensive, it doesn’t go well. With young children, it is essential to address problems immediately so they connect the discipline with their behavior. However, with teens, the opposite is actually true. Cognitively, they are very capable of connecting behaviors at a later time, and it’s actually more effective to give them time and space to decompress before discussing an issue.

Pay attention to how your teens process their emotions. Do they shut down when they are angry or spew all their feelings? Do they want solutions when they are crying or just seek comfort? Do they do better if they have time to internally process an issue or talk to a mentor before discussing it with you? When we are aware of how their moods and processing patterns affect them, we are able to respond accordingly and make the most of our moments.

Keep trying!

Paying attention to these four areas can help us take advantage of our teen’s rhythms so we can connect with them more effectively, which is our goal. Jesus was a master at recognizing people’s rhythms and making the most of the moments He was given. By following His example, we can get our teens talking and forming better connections. We may sometimes mess it up or get it wrong. That’s okay! The important thing is to keep trying.

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