Recently I’ve received many questions from parents about how to communicate with teenagers. Parents are frustrated with teens who are secretive about their lives, don’t want their parents’ advice, think they know everything and would rather follow their peers than listen to the voice of reason!
Does this sound familiar to you?
Parents also tell me that if they try to put their foot down and take the lead, the behaviours only get worse.
What’s your teen been up to lately?
- Here are some of the common teenager behaviours that drive parents wild:
- Hiding things or straight out lying
- Not wanting to go on family outings, events or even spend time with their parents
- Not listening to, or taking advice
- Speaking disrespectfully
- Lack of appreciation for the money they get and poor money management skills
- Poor health choices (junk food and lack of exercise)
- Dangerous lifestyles (extreme sports, drugs, alcohol and sexual promiscuity) and the list goes on…
Are you a good role model?
Are you experiencing one or more of these issues with your teens? While no parent would like to admit that they have done many, if not all, of these things themselves as a teen, they’d also hate to admit to doing these things right now and in life in front of their kids.
- Is it possible that parents actually role model these behaviours for their teens and so unconsciously teach their children to behave this way? Sounds crazy right, but let’s take a close look …
- Do you hide things from your teens, but want them to be open with you?
- Are you busy and so spend little quality time with the teens but want them to turn up to the next family function with you playing happy families?
- How often do you really listen to, and take the advice of, your children but want them to take your advice seriously?
- Do you speak respectfully to your children or do you just expect them to speak respectfully to you?
- Do you make poor financial, health or lifestyle choices and then get upset when they do?
While it may feel very confronting to explore questions like these, why not take the plunge and make some time to list down all of the things that your child does that makes you crazy and then see if there are any reflections for you?
Ponder on the reactions you’ve had to your teens worst behaviours and recall how you dealt with them with your child. Did you discuss them in a positive life-enabling way or a threatening, angry self-esteem destroying way?
Want to turn things around? It doesn’t happen overnight but here’s what can you do.
Things to try with your teen
The key is to take a long-term rather than short-term approach by focusing on your relationship and your connection with your teen. Start by reflecting honestly on the following questions. Have you made time to talk with your teen without being judgmental or offering advice? (I know that is SUPER hard to do).
Do you regularly have fun together doing what THEY like to do? Can you remember the last time you asked your children to be part of an important family decision and really listened to and included their input? Do your teens believe that you believe in them and that you respect them or do they mainly hear your criticism and disapproval of their friends and life style?
I’m not suggesting you let your teens run wild, do whatever they want and become best buddies – that would be totally irresponsible and unloving.
I’m suggesting that you communicate with them in a way that they can openly share their thoughts, feelings and needs in a safe environment and that you can help them see consequences and guide them to find solutions to their problems.
If you spend time focusing on your relationship with your teen, building trust, respect and love, you should find they’ll be more open with you and who knows … maybe even ask for your support. This is all about teaching your kids life skills and role modelling how they can get on in the world successfully and, of course, safely.
Send a selfie
And if all else fails, maybe you can send your teen a text or email – you’re probably more likely to get an answer! Why not surprise your teen daughter with a cute or funny selfie? Then send her a loving message for no reason other than to tell her you love her. Love, humour and care are the stuff real relationships are made of.