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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Building Relationship Skills in a Texting Generation


photo credit: Stephan Geyer via photopin cc

Over the last several months, I have spoken to more parents, teachers and coaches than I have students. It seems adults are still trying to figure out this digital generation of kids. Imagine that. I get asked great questions in these events that I plan to blog about this week. The question below came from a woman who is both a mother and a teacher:

Question: My sixteen-year-old daughter is an EXCELLENT “texter”.  I am fighting her weekly to do something as old fashioned as CALLING someone in place of texting.  I am concerned that she will grow up without social skills that she will need in a day-to-day life in work and social gatherings.  I know times have changed, but are my concerns valid?  We as a culture these days, try to expose our kids to all kinds of extra curricular activities from a very early age. I would hate for teens today to miss out on the art of face-to-face talking.

Answer: For whatever it’s worth—I share your concern. I’m certain it feels old fashioned to students for us to want them to know how to actually converse, face to face, but I don’t think the need for this skill will go away soon. Employers I talk to want team members that have good emotional intelligence, which includes social skills. My good friend, Tom Thomas, owns a company called Cardinal Advisors. He spends much of his time working with NCAA programs, helping student athletes learn manners and social skills. He is in demand, working with over 400 schools, and helping students prepare for interviews and jobs. He is teaching a lost art.

Texting is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is—it allows us to communicate immediately through a screen. The curse? We get lazy with our relational skills.

So, what’s a parent or teacher to do?

First, talk to your students about it. If they are ten-years-old or older, they should be able to understand the rationale behind learning people skills. Many teens avoid phone calls because they don’t want to put in the effort of a conversation. Let them know how valuable this skill will be as an adult.

Second, create opportunities for your kids to interact in a social setting, with people older and younger than they are. For instance, throw a party and have your kids host the adults who attend. Have them greet guests, take their coat, offer something to drink and ask how their day was. These are simple but profound skills that make them more marketable.

Third, set boundaries for your student’s cell phone use. Let them know when texting is OK and when phone calls are appropriate. One parent refused to let their son break up with his girlfriend through a text and made him do it in a face-to-face conversation. That’s good parenting in my book. Conflict should never be resolved (as a rule) through texting or email. Those tools are for information not emotion. I believe adults should model and teach these social skills to the next generation.




For more about this topic, check out quizzes and articles at:


  1. Ken on March 4, 2013 at 11:09 am


    I read some of your articles because I was online getting information regarding college graduates being unemployed, and what I have read of you so far is right on the head! I, like you, am in my fifties and have two grown sons that are millenials and recently I semi-retired in an effort to spend more time with and to help our younger generation develop realistic goals and plans that will help them get jobs once they graduate.

    The one comment I would like to make in regards to building relationships with them is that it really needs to start 1)at a very young age, 2)they need to see it modeled in their home by the parents, and 3)building relationships will only occur by quality time being spent together(this means there should be no TV’s on, or I-pods, or cell phones in operation at the time!) One of my old coaches told me that: “If you want them to spend time with you when you’re old, then you better spend time with them when they’re young”. Amen! I work a camp in the summer for fathreless young men and the latest government stats say of all the homes in the USA, 40% are without a Dad in the home, and for the afro-american child that statistic is up to 80%! These stats makes it really hard for a young person to have an understanding of what a good relationship looks like or how to develop one.
    My wife and I are very blessed and the fruit of having dinner with our boys at night with no distractions has proven very valuable. There are not many days that go by where are sons don’t call to check in or just say Hi! We are very blessed and now that we have the opportunity, we want to give back for all that we have received! Keep up the good work Tim!

  2. Head Tomato on March 4, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Check out my new post on Power Texting:

  3. Brian Musser on March 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    An observation I have noticed working with college students. Linguistically and mentally they do not distinguish between texting and other forms of communication. For example I had a student talking to me about a deeply relational and spiritual conversation they were having with a peer. While listening to the details of the conversation, it became clear to me that the conversation was via text. However, when describing the conversation to me the student did not think it was important to indicate that texting was the mode. This happens often. It seems I’m the only one that considers text as a distinguishing factor in a conversation. Has anyone else been picking up on the same phenomena. Also, has anyone had someone think that since they were able to communicate effectively via text that they did have well developed communication skills?

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Building Relationship Skills in a Texting Generation