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Posts Tagged ‘relationship with teenagers’

A parent skill that is very powerful with teenagers is Listening.  I know…this can seem like a very basic and obvious skill, however, this is not necessarily the case and this can be a tricky skill with teens sometimes.  The reason for this is because it can be scary for teenagers to think about how much they need you and rely on you, as their parent or guardian.  Think about how much energy they spend on pushing you away in an effort to prove how much they DON’T need you (which FYI they are trying to prove to themselves more than to anyone else).  Because of this, it is important for parents to take advantage of the opportunities when their teenagers WANT to talk to them and to be able to really listen fully when these opportunities arise.  When teens feel heard…they will be more likely to talk more.

Below are some tips and things to think about when listening to you teen:

  • Pay attention and be aware of when they want to talk – it is not always so obvious and they may not say, “do you have a minute to talk”.  They may be doing something else in an effort to get your attention, they may even be yelling or they may just make a point to be near you.  In such situations, you can simply say, “if there is anything you want to talk about I am here to listen”.  Keep is simple and don’t press them for information.
  • Be undistracted when they start talking – ignore the phone, TV or any other distractions around you as much as possible so that they feel they have your undivided attention and that what they are saying is important to you.
  • Make sure your body language gives the message you are listening – regardless of what they are saying, try to be relaxed, attentive and non-threatening while they are talking (if they are sitting, sit with them and don’t stand over them, etc).
  • Make conversations feel less threatening – sometimes sitting face to face is too much for teenagers.  Maybe talk while doing dishes, shooting a basketball, riding in the car, or doing some other activity.  This may take the pressure off them and make it easier for them to say what they really want to say.
  • Stay calm.  Being judgmental or having a strong emotional reaction will shut them down. If they feel like you are judging them or that they really upset you they will likely shut down and not come to you in the future.  This can be difficult to do since your teen may be talking about something that you disapprove of, something that scares you or even something that shocks you.  Trying to keep your emotions in control will allow the conversation to continue so that you can get all the information and let your teenager know that they can come to you, even in difficult situations.
  • Remember there is power in silence – sometimes just listening and hearing what they are saying without judging them is more effective than trying to offer advice.  If they feel they can really tell you what they want to say, they will be more likely to come to you again.
  • Respond in a way that keeps them talking – if you do respond to them, ask a non-threatening question or ask for clarification rather than just giving them your opinion or telling them what you think they should do.  Say something like, “that sounds difficult, what you do think you might want to do to make it better?”  You are not lecturing, advising or judging – you are being curious and letting them know you are interested in their thoughts.

I want to be clear that if your teenager has done something really wrong or if they are unsafe that you should not just sit and listen to them – in those situations you will need to step in with consequences or an intervention that is in the best interest of your child.  I am talking about all the other situations that arise where your teenager is working on being independent, trying to figure things out on their own and dealing with the difficult things that come up in the life of a teenager.  If they know you will listen – they will come to you and often times it matters less what you say and more that you are just there as a support to listen to them.

Go to www.HowToParentATeen to get more FREE parenting tips, to check out our parenting coaching programs and to sign up to get tips like this FREE every single week.

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I truly love this quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.  This is so very, very true.  Our emotions will always carry more weight and stick with us more than words alone.  When someone says something important to us, it becomes important because of how we feel when we hear it – not because of the words alone.  The emotional response we have to something is what pulls us to it or makes us want to push it away. 

This is important to think about in all of the relationships in our lives – how we make others feel when they are around us will draw them towards us or make them want to push us away.  Teenagers have not figured this all out yet and often will say or do things that are hurtful, insulting, and frustrating without giving it a second thought.  In these situations, it is important for parents to let their teenager know how what they did or what they said made THEM feel.  This will help raise their awareness to the fact that what they do impacts others emotionally in addition to allowing parents to express their dissatisfaction about a situation in a way that won’t necessarily turn into a big argument (if you tell your teenager how what they did made you feel, they cannot argue that you did not feel the way you are saying you did – it makes what you are saying less difficult to challenge).  This role modeling ongoing will make an impact over time.

On the other side, this quote is true for your teenagers also.  They will often forget the content of lectures, the details of the conversations and the explanation of why you have certain rules in place, however, they will not forget how you made them feel during these moments and in your general day-to-day interactions with them.  Do you make them feel like everything single thing they do is wrong, do you make them feel like their ideas and visions are stupid or unrealistic, do you make them feel like they are nothing but a pain in your household, do you make them feel like all they do is disappoint you, do you make them feel like they are the cause of all of your problems, do you make them feel like you wish you had another child instead of them OR do you make them feel important, special, valuable and worthy of having love on a daily basis?  Remember – one way of making them feel will cause them to pull away or push you away and the other will draw them to you.

I am not suggesting that you will never be angry, frustrated, annoyed and fed up with your teenager.  All of these feelings are normal for parents of teenagers and are in response to the challenges faced when raising a teenager. When you do have them, it is okay to acknowledge them, understand why you are having them and communicate them appropriately to your teenager in terms of how what they said or did made you feel and why.  But…what you also need to be communicating to them on an ongoing basis is that they are important to you, that they matter and that no matter what, you care about them and want what is best for them.  Remember, how they feel will stick with them in a more powerful way than just words being spoken to them.

Children who feel good about themselves and who feel important have more confidence and courage to be out there in the world, doing important things and passing along their value to others.  Children who feel awful about themselves, who feel like inconveniences and who do not feel important get lost in the world and don’t rise to their full potential.  Or…even worse…they “live down” to the negative feelings and expectations that have been instilled in them.

A great skill for all parents who want to better connect with their teenagers and who want to make sure they are creating those positive feelings is Validation.  If you download this free audio program:  3 Powerful Strategies For Parents Of Teenagers, you can have instant access to an audio tutorial where I will walk you though this skill and give you examples of how to start using it with your teenager immediately.  It transforms relationships.

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As was discussed in my previous blog post, arguing with your teenager can be extremely frustrating and draining for you, as the parent.  I have worked with so many parents who feel so much stress and even anger towards their teenager because they feel like their lives are consumed with fights, disagreements and with their teenager challenging them on an ongoing basis.  I remember working with a mother I will call Penny who was at the point where she was so angry and frustrated with her teenager that she entered most conversations with them defensive and ready to argue which was making for a very unpleasant household and was making her feel like she was not a very loving or nurturing parents.  Penny and I worked through what was going on for her and what may be going on for her teenager and she began to implement some of the strategies below with great results.  What Penny realized was that she was able to change her teenager’s behavior by changing her own behavior.   This makes complete sense – if you change the way you are interacting with someone, it will automatically change the way they are interacting with you AND you then begin to feel more in control of situations.  If you and your teenager are stuck in a pattern of behavior where you are arguing a lot – you are not alone.  This is fairly common and the good news is that it can change.  You are not doomed to be in this pattern of behavior until your teenager hits adulthood!  Read through the 15 tips listed below and choose a couple that you can start implementing today!  Be consistent and you will start to see some changes quicker than you think.  Also – if you have not already Liked us on  our Facebook Fan Page, please do so to get your free report that will give you strategies for getting your teenager to act more responsibly and also strategies for managing your teenager’s unpredictable moods.

15 Tips For Parents To Reduce Arguing In Your Teen:

  1. Allow everyone to have a fair opportunity to say what they would like to say.  Don’t just keep talking and repeating the same thing over and over without giving your teenager an opportunity to express their thoughts or how they feel.  Even if you don’t agree or they are not making any rational sense to you, give them some air time to speak.
  2. Do your best not to interrupt when your teen is speaking their mind.  This will increase the chances that they will listen while you are speaking and is good role modeling.  When it is your turn to speak you can remind them that they have had their turn.
  3. Let your teenager know that you cannot speak to them when they are yelling and respond positively when they stop yelling.  If your teenager knows that you will listen when they speak but not when they yell, you will reinforce them really trying to remain in control if they want to be heard (and teenagers always want to be heard!)  Praise them during times when they are able to express themselves effectively and help them see that your conversations can feel for productive for them when they remain calm.  Of course, this also means that you need to do your best to refrain from yelling.  A great strategy is if your teenager starts yelling that you speak softer and let them know that you will be happy to finish the discussion when they are able to stop yelling.
  4. Do your best to stick to the point and not bring up the past, other situations or bring others into the conversation unless it directly relates to them.  Haven’t we all had those moments where we end a fight not even remembering what we starting the fight about in the first place?   It goes without saying that this is not productive.  Keep the conversation focused on the issue at hand and try not to dredge up the past which will likely only fuel the fire.
  5. During arguments, never “put down” or make fun of your teenager.  Even if they act otherwise, teenagers are very insecure and they WANT your approval and to know that you are there to support and protect them.  One of the worst things a parent can do is to belittle or make fun of their teenager.  This can be really damaging to their self-esteem and it will likely really escalate an argument.  This can be challenging for parents who are on the receiving end of their teenagers rude comments or who have been listening to their teenager tell them what an awful parent they are because of course, parents have emotions too!  However, it is better to walk away than to say things to your teenager that you will later regret.
  6. Offer choices whenever possible and allow compromises when possible.  And I want to stress the “when possible” part.  Of course there are situations where you will never offer a choice (it is not a choice whether to go to school this week or not, it is not a choice whether to not come home for 2 days or not, etc), however, when possible, this can be a great tool for parents in both teaching teens to be more responsible but also for improving your overall relationship with your teenager.  (get your free audio program on the How To Parent A Teen website to learn the Consult, Don’t Control skill for parents of teenagers.  If your teenager approaches you ready to argue about a situation, try to give them choices and help them weigh the pros and cons of their choices.
  7. Accept that your teenager is not going to talk to you about everything.  Pushing them to talk about topics which are uncomfortable or upsetting will often result in their lashing out at you.  Obviously if you are concerned about their safety you will need to push them, however, if your interest in a certain topic is more about your own curiosity, sometimes it is better to just leave the topic alone than to argue with them about it.
  8. Regardless of how loud your teen is yelling, keep your voice low.  Your teen will have to lower their own voice to hear you and in addition, just speaking softly can lower the tension in the room.
  9. Try to use “I” statements rather than blaming statements.  For example, you may say, “I get really worried about you when you don’t come home for your curfew” instead of “You keep messing up by coming in late for your      curfew”.  In both situations, you are letting them know it is unacceptable but it is harder for them to argue the “I” statement which is less blaming.  They can’t tell you that you are not worried but they can try to argue with you that they are not always messing up.  Really think about this tip – it can be very powerful and just changing how you phrase something can make a significant impact.
  10. If your teenager is getting really out of control, tell them that you are ending the conversation for 10 minutes.  Let them know that you will take a break until everyone calms down some and then you will be willing to revisit the conversation (this may mean you need to go into the bathroom and shut the door or go for a drive to allow for this break).  If you find this can be effective, try to put it in place during a time when you are not arguing.  Have an agreement with your teenager that if start to get into a disagreement and either one of you really starts yelling that you will take 5-10 minutes apart and then come back to the conversation and finish it.  Having already discussed this during a non emotional time will make it easier to implement when are argument arises.
  11. Remain sitting if at all possible when your teen is arguing with you.  This will help them feel less threatened and view you as being calmer which may work to help them calm down as well.
  12. Try not to take things personally.  Often teens will say hurtful and mean things to parents which is not acceptable or okay in my opinion.  Despite this, it is important that parents do not respond out of emotion.  It is more helpful for parents to let their teen know how their words impacted them and that it is not acceptable during a non-emotional time rather than to try to tackle this issue when your teen is already  upset and not listening to you.   Using Tip #10 can be effective at this point in an argument.
  13. Validate your teenager even if you don’t agree with everything they are saying.  Having your teen feel heard is often more important than having them feel like you agree with what they are saying.
  14. Do your best to communicate with your teenager during non-confrontational times.  Having regular communication (perhaps at family dinners or even in the car when driving them somewhere) will help them communicate effectively with you ongoing so that you are not only communicating during emotional times.
  15. Pick your battles.  Your teenager will test you with what they wear, their music and  with the subjects they bring up just to name a few.  Be thoughtful about the battles you want to fight and know that much of the time they are just testing the waters and trying to figure out who they are which will pass in a short period of time.  Is it worth a screaming match in the morning before school if your teenager wants to wear flip-flops on a snowy day?  Although this does not make sense and you know their feet will be freezing, is it better to advise them calmly that you are concerned they will be cold but then let them make their own decision and figure out for themselves that it does not feel so good being outside with no shoes in the winter.  By choosing not to engage in this battle with them, you and your teen have a much more pleasant morning and they learn on their own that it may not be the best idea to wear flip-flops in the winter.  Nobody is angry at anybody and your teenager is not resentful at you for trying to “control them”.

Figuring out teenagers and how to respond to them effectively is a challenge each and every day.  As the parent of a teenager it is important that you get support and have balance in your life so that you can respond to your teenager in a way which is effective and which does not increase your own stress and frustration.  Try implementing a couple of these strategies consistently and notice the moments where you are able to avoid or head off an argument that may have otherwise happen.

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