Adolescence is notoriously a tough time – for parents!
It’s a time when many children transform from sweet and gentle little things to great big monsters and communication seems to grind to a halt.
Now, some parents escape this phase entirely – well lucky you if you’re one of them but most parents do experience a battle when it comes to talking to their teenager. It can often feel like communicating with them is an impossible task, they either grunt at you, they pretend not to hear you or simple conversations blow up into massive disagreements.
It doesn’t have to be like that though.
While you might feel eternally frustrated at the poor communication between you and your teen, knowing how to speak to them properly is something that will be empowering for you. It also will go a long way to helping to break down those barriers.
It’s not just about talking to them; it’s also about learning how to listen to them so they feel comfortable talking back. This means re-evaluating how you communicate and making sure you actually do talk to them rather than at them.
It also means being able to share thoughts and opinion, rather than just imposing your own.
If you take steps now to change how you communicate you might well be able to strengthen your relationship and make your teen approach you for advice and counsel. In order to know what’s going on in your teen’s life you need to keep the lines of communication open (never spy on them, if they find out you’ve been hunting through their personal belongings, you might lose any chance of quality communication).
A great book from Amazon on the subject of teens and communication is this one, by Adele Faber $12.80.
Here are some great top tips on how to talk to your teen so they listen.
Always Be Loving
Communication comes in different forms.
Remember, it’s not just about speech; communication is also made up of actions. One of the most important things you should do is to make sure you are always loving to your teenager.
Always Give Your Full Attention
You should also be approachable.
If you keep dismissing your teenager because you’re busy, then they won’t come to you when they need you. Likewise, conducting a conversation with them while you’re scrolling through your smartphone means you aren’t fully engaged with them and you can’t possibly be giving them priority.
Additionally, it is a bad habit they will pick up because children learn from adults. They will think it’s perfectly acceptable to talk while doing something else, such as looking at their touchscreen.
Remember, some teens act up to get your attention so if you know deep down that you’re not giving them enough of your time, you need to change your ways. If you’re a loving parent doling out plenty of positive attention, you will stop your teen from behaving negatively just to get your attention.
So, take time to listen to your teen, always talk to them about their day at school or other and what’s going on in their life.
Don’t talk to them when you’re too busy to listen. Think about it in reverse, when you’re talking to a friend on the telephone and they’re distracted it’s very frustrating to have a proper conversation! Your teen experiences the same emotion when you do this to them.
If your teen is taking time out to talk to you about something that’s worrying them, they deserve your full attention. Without it, they won’t open up to you.
Pick Good Opportunities For Conversation
If you feel your teen doesn’t want to talk to you or never has time, perhaps if you start a conversation they rush out the room, then try to be clever! Use opportunities such as car journeys but make sure they don’t plug into their headphones and avoid talking to you!
You should also make family dinner, if you can’t do this every night because sometimes, there are other commitments; make sure to do it at least three times a week. This is an excellent opportunity for everyone in the family to communicate and enjoy each other’s company too (and great for the art of conversation!).
Use Discipline Thoughtfully
If you are loving, kind, gentle and approachable you will go a long way in establishing a stronger relationship with your child and thus avoid conflict.
I’m not telling you to avoid discipline when necessary but I am saying that if they need you, be there for them 100% and make them your number one on your list.
Discipline is still important and if your teen does wrong, you should definitely explain to them what they’ve done and the impact of their actions. You should also set a punishment according to the crime but always use discipline thoughtfully and remember to be compassionate at the same time.
When your teen does something wrong, it’s not a good idea to raise your voice and shout. This only results in resentment and will cause them to retreat from you and close down communication.
While easier said than done, it’s far better to quietly explain how their behavior affects you and this is when problem-solving comes into play. Always bear in mind that your teen will listen to your views and opinion and views if they know that their own thoughts and opinions are also being listened to.
This only results in resentment and will cause them to retreat from you and close down communication. While easier said than done, it’s far better to quietly explain how their behavior affects you and this is when problem-solving comes into play.
Always bear in mind that your teen will listen to your views and opinion and views if they know that their own thoughts and opinions are also being listened to.
By the same token, think about how you speak to your teen, by simply rephrasing your feelings, you might get a better response. So, if you’re angry with them, don’t do anything until you’re calm. Explain how you feel, if they’re rude to you, quietly ask them to rephrase what they’re saying to you.
If you’re itching to lecture your teen, count to ten and think carefully. Any teen that thinks they’re about to get a lecture will clam up.
It’s best to bite your tongue until you have worked out the best way to express your feelings.
Often, talking through their actions without lecturing enables them to see their own mistakes or solve their problem. You need to create a safe environment for them to open up, this will help to problem solve and you’ll be able to express your opinion in a calm atmosphere.
Try and Be A Positive Person
Communication in the right way will also shape your teen. So, if you’re a negative person and communicate in a negative manner, don’t be surprised when they start to copy you.
You should always try your best to be positive and upbeat (hard as it is in some situations) as positivity breeds harmony. It’s also a good idea to try and see the funny side of things because it makes you a more approachable person and a lot of teens find it frustrating when their parents are dismissive, negative or distant.
Try Not To Constantly Criticise
Try not to be overly critical too.
If they are sharing with you, don’t criticise their actions – approach advice differently or you might build up hostility. Overly criticise your child and you run the risk of denting their self-confidence which can have a long-term effect.
So, always give your teen attention in a positive way and reassure them that you are there to support them, whatever the circumstances.
Designate Time For Your Teen
If you do have a hectic life and it feels like there’s no time, you could designate specific time to catch up with your teen.
This could be an afternoon out together or some “together” time every day. The more you try to connect with your child, the closer your relationship will become and you will build respect and friendship.
If you just don’t have time for this, you need to rethink your life because your children are hugely important so other activities might have to be dropped to incorporate more time for communication.
If you are running from pillar to post with work, home-life, friends, family and other activities then you might also be stressed. Stress impacts other family members and if your teen thinks you’re stressed out – they will feel uncomfortable approaching you for advice or for your time.
Slow down the pace and give them the extra time you create.
Be Open To Any Topic
Assure your teen that you are open to any type of conversation so they don’t shy away from topics they may not want to discuss with you. Try your best not to be judgemental because then, if they do take you up on your offer, they won’t rush to do it again!
Being open will help them with safety. If you can’t discuss topics such as drugs and sex your teen won’t open up to you and this could cause problems for them, such as drug abuse, unwanted pregnancy, STDs etc.
I’m afraid you’re going to have to toughen up if you don’t like these subjects!
Boost Self-Esteem In Your Teen
All kids struggle with confidence at some point in these formative years. They are learning about themselves and trying to identify with the world they’re in. This is where you can help. For example, if your child is unsure of their appearance, you could pay them compliments.
Always praise them for positive behavior and no matter how small the compliment, everybody loves one! Your teen especially does too.
Lead By Example
Leading by example is another method of communication because subconsciously you’re communicating the right type of behavior. If you worry that your teen is prone to getting involved in the wrong type of activities then do look at your own life.
If you swear, smoke, drink and use drugs then your teen will think it’s perfectly suitable for them to do the same. Remember, it’s up to you to guide your teen so if you want your child to be well-behaved, you need to do the same!
Teach the Art Of Conversation
What we haven’t explored properly is the art of conversation. Our teens are growing up in a digital world, with an explosion of technology.
The phone is almost defunct for audible conversation and is reserved for text, WhatsApp, Messenger and other forms of social media. This is the way teens communicate with each other and it’s not going away.
You should still be able to message your teen via smartphone, it’s an excellent mode of communication when they’re out and about and you want to know what they’re doing. However, be wary of making it your only communication route.
When you speak to your teen, you need to teach them how to have a conversation too because the art of conversation is disappearing in that age group. Make a rule, when you chat, no phones and no iPads just face to face good old-fashioned conversation!
It’s The Little Things
The most important thing you can do is to be there for your teen and keep the lines of communication open. There will be times when your teen won’t want to talk but keeping the emotional connection there will make all the difference.
Communication isn’t just about speech, as I’ve mentioned, it’s also about actions. So if your teen is watching TV, watch with them, sit close to them, perhaps get involved in their hobby (playing tennis, jogging, walking and shopping for example). That way they know you’re there with them and they always know that they are loved.
Finally – those turbulent teenage years are troubling enough for your child. As a parent, it’s up to you to guide and support your teen.
Keep it real, with plenty of love, lots of emotional support and practical advice.
The more love and concern you show to your child and the more dialogue, the less your teen will try to rebel. By doing this, you will hopefully develop a teen who looks up to you and respects your views.
Try not to shout and scream when you’re frustrated. Use your skills as an experienced adult to prepare your teen for adulthood. Remember, you were once that grouchy teen who grunted at your own parents once!
If you still struggle, this useful YouTube video has some good pointers, lengthy though it is!
- Never snoop!
- Always have time for your teen
- Always ask them about their day
- Always be loving, even when administering discipline
- Try and refrain from being too critical
- Give praise and compliments
- Assure them you are always there to talk about anything
- Lead by example
- Be positive and upbeat
- Make family dinners
- Pick opportune moments!
- Don’t just communicate through conversation, sometimes, actions speak louder than words