Talking to Your Teenager

Talking to Your Teenager

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Management gurus say when you have a problem, sit down with your team and discuss it. Why is it that when it comes to our children, we don't discuss, but advise and order? We merely tell them what's "wrong" or "right" and what they should or shouldn't do.

Children, particularly, the older children, who have acquired a mind of their own, tend to take such advice as an invitation to challenge parental authority. Defiance and stubbornness often invite parents to lay down the law or, in some fashion, try to restore the line of command and control. And so, the conflict goes on.

Are you experiencing trouble communicating with a teenager in your family? Do you often start conversation with the intention of calmly discussing the problem but end up in a shouting match? If yes, read on.

There are no quick fixes for a chronic and well-entrenched faulty pattern of interaction. However, if you are prepared to keep on making a dedicated effort to improve there is a good chance that you'll be able to establish a healthy pattern of communication with your teen.

Relationship comes before communication. How successfully you communicate with your teen about sensitive and troubling issues largely depends on the quality of relationship between the two of you.

The quality of relationship that exists today between the two of you depends on the entire history of how you have related and communicated with him or her from day one. If your child carries a lot of resentment regarding some past action of yours, it may take a little longer to win his or her trust. However, if you have a small child, you can avoid a lot of future troubles by establishing a healthy pattern of communication and discussion now.

If you encourage your teen to fully discuss a problem or an issue facing him or her, it could open a window to offer appropriate advice. In fact, your teen may ask for it himself or herself. But, until then, withhold the temptation to intervene in some wrong way.

In order to communicate effectively with teenager, you must always be cognizant of this possibility: they may not understand the way you mean it and you may not understand the way they mean it.

So, when your child says, "You don't know anything about me," it might be better to accept that there are many things you don't know about him or her and there are many other things that you are in a good position to know since you've observed him or her from day one.

Acknowledge the fact that your teenage children know more about some things than you do and likewise suggest that there are things about which you know more than they.

If your child understands the opposite of what you in fact mean, don't pull your hair (or of your child's) or blow up out of frustration. It only means that you need to work harder at properly communicating. Stay calm. Stay calm.

Admit openly when you realize you were wrong about something or made a mistake. Apologize if an apology is in order. Your teen may not offer an apology when it's due or start reciting a list of the mistakes he or she has made, but it might soften his or her attitude towards you just a little.

There is no relationship as delicate as a parent-child relationship, especially, if the child is an adolescent or an adult. True, you are the parent and they are the children. You've brought them to this beautiful world, raised them to the best of your ability, sent them to the best college you could afford, but it still is the most delicate and sensitive relationship in the world. Children might take the criticism better from everyone else but their parents.

It's easy to say something hurtful when we're angry. A negative comment is a natural response when we're frustrated. But, that wouldn't deliver the results you're after. It takes a lot more thinking and understanding of the problem to come up with something that can make the children think or learn something about their own behavior. Yet, that's the best and most enduring help parents can offer.

The trouble is that when you're frustrated with your child's behavior, it's often difficult to recognize that you are saying something negative, especially if it's not starkly negative. For example, you can never not know that "Why are you so stupid?" is a negative comment, but, "You're going in a wrong direction with your life" might not necessarily appear negative when you are upset. Yet, it can appear as enormously critical to your child.

When it comes to methods of teaching appropriate and desirable behavior, teaching by setting a good personal example wins the race. That is the numero uno. Commands, threats, coaxing, pleas and reminders trail far behind.

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 2002, Mind Publications 


Click for Dr. Sharma's credentials
Dr. Vijai Sharma
Your Life Coach
By Telephone

Feedback- Let us know how we are doing

Terms and Conditions

Web site designed and maintained by Chanda Taylor