There’s a parenting belief I’d like to bust wide open. The belief is: “Teenagers are hard to talk to.” And that’s simply not true.
Let’s reframe it right now. The new angle on this unhelpful belief is: “Teenagers are different beings to talk to from when they were little.”
I agree, the easy communication you had with your child will have disappeared. No longer are you in the position of having your ‘pearls of wisdom’ accepted at face value and nor will you be able to read your teenager as easily anymore. They are growing up. It’s in our biological, mammalian hard-wiring to question the world around us, to develop our own ideas and to become our own people. That means listening more to our peers and keeping secrets from our parents.
What can a savvy parent do when their words appear to be falling on deaf ears and their teenager is delighting in only answering in grunts? Easy. Change the way you communicate with them.
- Since communication time is limited, make sure you stick to the basics. That means saying what you mean. It may sound like, “When the dishes are done I’ll give you a lift to your friend’s house. Let me know what time I will be taking you.” Or it could be, “We agreed you’d be home by (x time). When you are late home I worry about your safety.”
- Then SHUT UP. Wait to hear what they say. DO NOT SAY ANOTHER WORD UNTIL YOUR TEENAGER REPLIES TO YOU.
- When they do reply, listen to what they have to say.
- So they know you’ve heard them, reflect back what they said. This may sound like, “I know you’ve got lots of homework to do.” Or, “I appreciate you may have forgotten what the time was.”
- Use the AND word. After you’ve reflected back to them, add onto the conversation with an “and”. This might sound like, “I know you’ve got lots of homework to do, and the dishes still need attending to. What suggestions do you have to make sure both get sorted before I drop you off?” Or, “I appreciate you may have forgotten what the time was and I would like you to message me so I know you’re okay and on your way. After all, we had negotiated that time in good faith and I expect you to hold to your side of the bargain.”
It’s all about give and take. Keep your conversations short, simple and to the point. Say one thing and wait for them to reply. And while you’re waiting, watch their body language. When they understand you, you will see a nod. If they’re not in agreement, there will be a shake of their head. This is important information. If the conversation is important then resist the urge to have it from another room or while you’re rushing out the door.
And if it’s just chit chat then yes, that’s nice. Keep it as that – light banter and enjoyable conversation.
Parenting is a big job, let’s not make it any harder by buying into the idea that it’s going to be difficult. The only thing that’s difficult about it is managing the way it changes.
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