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Parenting Teenagers - Getting Them To Talk

Nov 3, 2007
A sullen, non-communicative teenager. A frustrated parent.

Is that the way it is in your home living with your teenager?

Parenting teenagers is a demanding job, no doubt about it. Teens have the natural ability to challenge us on every level. Whereas once they simply accepted our authority as parents, no more.

Many parents fight against this normal developmental phase. As a result, their homes become tense battlegrounds as they stand ready to defend their positions at a moment's notice. Usually, in this environment, a teen starts out yelling and ends up silent.

Because he or she has found somewhere else where their voice can be heard. And appreciated.

While some teen frustrations are firmly rooted in parenting issues from the child's younger years, if you have an otherwise well-adjusted teenager who simply has stopped talking to you, there are practical things you can do that will help.

I am currently parenting my third teenager and these communication tips are what we use in our home everyday to keep talking alive and well.

-- Listening comes first.

Trite but true, your teenager will tune you out if you never *really* listen to what she has to say.

You want to get your teen's attention? Then learn to listen with your whole being. Use your body language and lean closer when he's talking. Make eye contact. Repeat back what you hear so you're sure you understand every ounce of what your teenager is telling you. Ask clarifying questions. Empathize. Give him your undivided attention (no cell phones, newspapers, no half-hearted 'uh-huh's').

In other words, listen to your teen the way you wish you were listened to.

If you do this one step regularly, your teen will seek you out, yearning to talk to you.

Imagine that.

-- Respect is king.

It's easy to be condescending when parenting teenagers. As parents, we know more than they do, right? We've been around the block numerous more times than they have. Heck, compared to them, we are wise!

However, here's the real deal. If teens don't feel respected by us, they don't accept our influence.

And all that wisdom goes down the drain.

That fact is not limited to teenagers, by the way. That's the way we're all wired as human beings. And it helps a lot to remember your teen is perilously close to being an adult and feeling the way adults do. Your teenager is not all grown up yet, but close enough to give you clues as to what they need.

Like respect. Earn their respect and they will trust you with their lives.

-- Teamwork means everything.

Teenagers often feel like they're carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. It's easy for us who are parenting teenagers to look at their day-to-day lives and say, "that's nothing! Wait until you have MY responsibilities!" But what we as parents forget, is that our teen is new at these types of responsibilities. So problems that we can see obvious solutions to, our teens find overwhelming. Challenges that would slide off our backs, they get lost in.

As a person, it's humiliating to admit you're overwhelmed and lost. So you don't. And neither does your teen.

Teamwork changes that. For example, a parent who's noticing their teen is struggling with academics has two choices. Yelling (ever noticed how often yelling works?). Or leading the way providing training on how to make a positive change.

A parent could say something like "I see you're finding your current schoolwork challenging. That's good because it means you have the chance to learn something new here. I have some methods that have worked for me when dealing with challenging work and I'd be glad to show them to you. When's a good time for you?"

For some teens, that conversation is all they need in order to acknowledge they need help. Others will take more coaxing. Still, the point is valid. Don't just tell them what to do...work with them, empathize with their frustration, show them how to set a goal, overcome obstacles and come out the other side. Then celebrate with them. They've earned it! And you've earned their respect.

-- Show them you understand...them.

While parenting teenagers, we often lecture as opposed to discuss. That's only natural for us as parents. Usually we can see their glaring error in judgment and we realize it's our duty to correct them.

Right idea. Wrong method.

Humility works big time with teenagers. Have you ever made a mistake that your teen seems to also be making? Probably more frequently then you would like to admit. Well, admit it. When you explain the boundaries you are placing on their behavior, let your past example (mistake) be the "here's what I've learned from this problem myself" part of the conversation.

Believe me, you'll have their attention when you admit to not having it all together. 'Cuz guess what. Everyday your teen ACTS like he has it all together to cover up the fact that he KNOWS he doesn't have it all together. And he's worried and scared.

Your admission you've been where he is and you found a way out will be welcome news. That you cared enough about him to share your vulnerabilities won't be lost on him, either.

Obviously, this parenting tip only applies to age and situation-appropriate confessions. But do you get the point here? Your teen is longing for someone who knows her and is willing to be on her side. Ideally that needs to be you.

Parenting teenagers effectively means building relationships with them, listening when it's convenient for them (not you), working with them to help them overcome challenges, earning their respect so it's YOU they think of when they need to talk.

This will take patience, an open heart, thick skin and daily time. Things that all prove to your teenager that you think they're worth it.

And they are.
About the Author
Colleen Langenfeld has been parenting for over 26 years and helps other moms enjoy mothering more at http://www.paintedgold.com . Visit her website and learn more about parenting teenagers today.
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