Parenting & Family Life

How to Talk to Your Teenager

Communication with your teen can be what feels like a never ending battle. It seems as though it is a one-sided conversation. They are trying everything possible to get the answer they want and you are trying to make a decision about something they want. Teenagers will badger, sulk, plead, become aggressive, or even run to get their way. Parents tend to get backed into a corner when confronted with this type of communication eventually parents give in to their teen demands and the teen knows that they will give in if they continue to badger.

This type of communication from the teenager to the parent is actually a form of manipulation. We all manipulate situations and people during our life but teens’ have mastered this form of manipulation, and here is why. At first they will ask to go to a party and the parent asks what kind of party, who will be there, are there any adults that will be at this party to chaperon? The teenager is now answering these questions very thoughtfully and making sure not too much information is given but just enough to get the answer they want. The parent hears something they don’t like about the party and so they say “no”.

Now the battle begins, the teenager will start badgering by talking about their friends and how their parents are letting them go, they may begin to backtrack on some of their answers to let the parents know that it really is going to be a good party and no one is doing anything they shouldn’t be. As the parent continues with answering “no”, the teen then goes to their next tactic which might be anger. The teen might start by yelling and telling the parent how stupid they are or even worse calling them names, they may run into their room, slam the door, and turn their music up really loud just to get the reaction from the parent. If this doesn’t work after a while the teen might go to the next level which may be depressed and threatening hurting themselves. I have worked with many teenagers that have threatened suicide because they weren’t getting their way. If this is still not working the teen will go to the next level which might be following the parent around yelling, or crying, or whatever tactic has worked in the past. As soon as the parent engages in their behavior the teen knows they have won and will be going no matter what. This is why, once the parent engages in the teen’s antics the fight is over and the teenager will get their way. This happens because either the parent gives in because of the threats and temper tantrum or this explodes into a huge fight and the teen then has the justification to take off and disappear, allowing them to go the party.

This is a teenage temper tantrum and they are hurtful, things are said that can’t be taken back, and the relationship between child and parent suffers greatly because of this type of communication. I have helped many parents learn to communicate effectively with their teenager. This includes helping the parent stay strong and stick with the answer they gave in the beginning. Teaching the parent ways to cope with the teenage temper tantrum is one of the keys to raising a teenager.

First, never engage in their tantrum:

go for a walk, get in your car and drive to the store, anything you need to do to not engage in their behavior. Once you have engaged with your teen you have actually lost the battle. One thing to remember in this relationship is that you can’t control them by out yelling them, being physical with them, or trying to punish them in some way.

Second, do not get into an argument with them:

there is no winning there will only be chaos, anger, and stress. If they try to engage you in the argument just look at them and shrug your shoulders or tell them “that is too bad”. Do not be sarcastic when you are saying this or shrugging your shoulders, all you are doing is staying out of the reaction they are trying to get from you. Once you react to their behavior you have lost the battle.

Third, never go to their emotional level :

As a parent it is important to keep your emotions out of it. If you let your anger go to the point of yelling at your teen when they are yelling at you, your teen just got what they were looking for. Always remain calm in these situations; always take some time before you answer their questions when they are pushing for an answer, always walk away from their tantrum letting them know that you can’t hear or understand what they are saying when they are yelling and then walk away. It is important to teach your teenager how to communicate and if you are yelling, swearing, throwing things, or putting your head in the sand then believe me your teenager will communicate the same way back only worse. This is why I call them teenage temper tantrums, teens are throwing tantrums to get what they want and they will continue to raise the bar each time they want something if the parent allows them to get away with these actions.

Fourth, do not take on their problems, allow them to solve their problems and fix their life :

 If you are constantly taking care of their school problems, problems between siblings or other family, problems they may have with their coach or other mentors in their life, they will never learn to solve their problems.

Fifth, do not think that being friends is a better way to raise your teenager :

It is not. Because of the natural selfishness of a teenager they will use your friendship to get their way and get whatever they want. Teenagers’ do not look at you as a friend they will look at you as weak, but they will tell you whatever you want to hear to get what they are wanting. Teenagers are self indulgent and want everything fast. This is instant gratification and it is important to teach your teenager about earning things and not just expecting things to be given to them.

Last, raising a teenager today can be extremely difficult :

For parents that have given so much to their child out of love can backfire when they become teenagers. Teenagers are naturally selfish, self-centered, think they know everything, and they have the world by the tail. It is extremely important to keep the communication open, listen to what your teen is saying, don’t jump to conclusions, and definitely don’t be afraid to tell them “no”. You are teaching them to be responsible adults and so as a parent staying calm and reminding yourself that you too were once a teenager may help you keep perspective on the situations that arise.