No matter how well you, as a parent, recall being a teenager, talking to teenagers now is different than it was a generation ago. Furthermore, your child or children, as you are well beginning to learn, are becoming individuals, separate from yourself. It is only logical that they may have different needs than you did when you were their age. In order to maintain civil, productive conversations with your teenagers, keep in mind the following tips:
- Be nonjudgmental
This is perhaps the hardest piece of advice since we, as humans, judge automatically. Judging itself is okay, but learn when you are judging and adjust your response to your teenagers. Regardless of what they say, they care about your opinion. Ridiculing them will only make them feel rejected and scared to share more with you in the future. Therefore, if they are trying to share something with you, listen to them, recognize if your mind is making judgements, and reverse those judgements. Respond kindly and with words free of judgement.
- Demonstrate trust
Demonstrating trust is two-fold. For one, you want to demonstrate that you trust their judgement. They are still learning what you yourself had years to learn. If you don’t agree with something he or she has to say, respect that it is his or her opinion. Again, respond kindly and show that you see him or her as an independent entity with opinions that may not necessarily line up with yours. The other kind of trust is done when you give your teenagers privacy. It demonstrates that you trust them enough to let them have pieces of their lives that they don’t necessarily need to share with you. All adults have varying aspects of their lives that they don’t share with their parents. As a teenager, one that will eventually transition into adulthood, they need to feel that sense of autonomy.
- Don’t lecture them
When teenagers are being lectured, all they are feeling is that you, as the parent, feel they have done something wrong and are going at lengths to ensure they know it. The chances are that your teenager already knows they did something wrong. If they honestly don’t, simply notifying them of such can resolve the situation. Giving them an extended lecture will reverse any chance you had of them wanting to hear what you say. The same goes for nagging. If you need to nag your teenager into doing something, they are only doing it to stop your nagging, which means you will most likely need to nag them again for them to repeat that behavior.
- Lead by example
This advice is relevant when talking to anyone, but especially teenagers. If you want your teenagers to apologize to you when they make mistakes, be sure to apologize to them when you make mistakes as well. They are more likely to follow your example. Furthermore, if you want your teenagers to speak to you with respect, then you must speak to them with respect as well. Avoid using a condescending tone. The more you feel the need to make them feel inferior to you, the more they will fight back to feel superior. Create a balance by speaking gently, calmly, and respectfully.
Even though all you parents out there have at one point been teenagers, speaking to your own teenagers can be something of a challenge. By following this advice, you can learn to have healthy, productive conversations with your teenagers.