Communication Tips for Teenagers and Parents
Arguments between teenagers and parents can easily become heated. Unfortunately this is a problem that comes with being a teen – hormones are raging, puberty is in full swing, and as a result, young people are prone to be much more impulsive than adults are. This impulsivity may make it hard for them to consider the consequences of their words before saying them.
’Golden Rules’ for Dealing with Teenagers
Be kind to yourself
Give yourself a pat on the back! The very fact that you are reading this article shows that you care about your child and you want to be the best parent you can be. Nobody is perfect, so don’t strive for perfection – it is okay to lose your temper once in a while.
Don’t tell them to do anything
Because they will want to do the opposite! Offer choices instead. Example: „Do the dishes!” versus „Would you rather help with the dishes or clear the table?”
Don’t criticise them
Be supportive and kind in your wording, when you can.
Remember that irritability and snapping at others is a common ’symptom’ of being a teenager. Be the bigger person.
Remind them that you care about them
Not their grades, their exams, or their future career prospects. Express that you love them and will continue loving them, regardless of the choices they make.
Be a role-model
Just by being around your children, you are modelling to them on a daily basis what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. Yes, we all have difficult days, nobody is perfect. So own it – say it like it is! Most teenagers appreciate honesty above all else and will listen to you if you speak to them frankly.
I am repeating this one because it is so important – be real, when you can. While you should not divulge details about your financial problems in great detail, if they ask „What’s wrong? You seem sad.” Instead of brushing them off, if there is indeed something difficult on your mind, you may say: „I am feeling a bit stressed.” And then, you can show them how you manage your stress – so your child can learn that too.
If you are already practising some or all of the above techniques, and there are still more fights occurring than you’d like, you may want to consider introducing some basic rules that everyone in the family needs to follow – even you!
By doing this, you, as a parent can model to your child that respect goes both ways – you will respect them and their wishes if they respect yours in return.
Fair Fighting Rules
Print off this sheet of 'Fair Fighting Rules' and hand it to your child. You can decide together which rules you want to follow or any modifications you wish to make. Once you begin using it, stick to it as much as you can.
Some useful rules may include:
Discuss one issue at a time
"You shouldn't be spending so much time playing video games" can quickly turn into "You don't care about me!". Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We've all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.
No degrading language
Discuss the issue, not the person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is an attempt to express negative feelings while making sure your partner feels just as bad. This will just lead to more character attacks while the original issue is forgotten.
Take turns talking
Set a timer in the beginning if necessary and switch every minute. When the other person is speaking, listen! Don’t think about what you are going to say.
Use ‘I’ statements
Express your feelings and take responsibility for them. For example, instead of saying: “You shouldn’t spend so much time playing video games”, say: “I feel sad that you don’t want to eat dinner with us anymore. I miss your company.”
Stone-walling is when instead of resolving the problem, one party leaves suddenly, mid-conversation and shuts themselves in their own room (or leaves the house etc..). This technique may help the person who is doing it, but it makes the other person even more upset – so it will have negative consequences in the long run. If you really need a break, request a time-out and agree when you will continue the discussion.
Getting professional help
If you are finding it hard to implement the above rules, you may want to consider seeking professional help, such as counselling. A counsellor may be able to give you and your family useful advice an insights, and even long-standing communication issues may be resolved within a short time-frame, if you are committed to following the counsellor’s advice.
For tips on how to find a professional counsellor, see my tips on my home page.