by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
The typical teenager talks very little with her parents. She is in her room most or all the time, and get closer to her friends than to the family. Sometimes these behaviors get so out of hand that parents have to resort to learning life hacks for parenting rebellious teens. However, all of these behaviors are nature’s ways of preparing her for adulthood. During this time, it is quite possible for a parent not to know how to talk to the teenager so that she will not withdraw further into her shell. Let us see some tips to help you out.
Lectures do not work. Research on parenting has conclusively shown that lecturing, scolding or nagging teenagers do not yield good results. One of the reasons is that no one feels good when they hear how displeased your parent is with something you have done, for a long time and too often. After a while, your typical teenager will feel resentful or defensive, and they stop listening.
Listening is the single most important thing a parent can do to establish a positive relationship with a teenager. When your teenager wants to say something to you, keep away your phone and all other distractions, and pay attention. You don’t have to agree or disagree or offer solutions to problems immediately. Very often, it is just validation for emotions that they seek. You can show that you are interested and paying attention by repeating something she said in different words or asking genuine questions. Never interrupt; let her finish her thoughts.
Be understanding, not judgmental. Even when it is impossible to agree with what your teen is saying, it is possible to understand why she is saying it and what the feeling behind it is. Questions that help you understand are ‘tell me what happened’, ‘what did you feel at that time’, ‘how do you feel about that?’, ‘that sounds interesting’ etc. You are being judgmental and discouraging if you say things such as ‘I don’t think I am going to like what you have to say’, or ‘Why are you asking me?’
When you want to point out something that is undesirable, talk about the specific behaviour in concrete terms, not in abstract or general terms. For example, if your daughter has not done chores assigned to her, better say, ‘I see that you have not cleaned the table today’, rather than ‘You are always forgetting your chores’ or’ You are so irresponsible’.
It is inevitable that there will be arguments between parents and their teenage children. However, sometimes, these arguments can get out of hand, and the people involved may say or do things that they might regret later. This is the time you should stop and withdraw by saying something like ‘I would like to some time to myself to think this over.’ You can get back to the discussion when things have settled down.
There used to be a time when people were advised to ‘take their anger out’. However, this has been proven to be a misleading advice. When people ‘take their anger out’ by screaming, yelling, throwing things at others or breaking things, it can harm the relationship so seriously that it may be difficult to mend it. So, it is ok to feel angry, but keep silent and go for a run instead of screaming!
There is a part of the teen mind that craves love and acceptance by the parent. Hug her and say that she is looking good in the new outfit. Or that the hairstyle suits her very well. Make her feel loved and appreciated. This should be done irrespective of her grades at school or how messy her room is. The most important times for a hug and an ‘I love you’ are early in the morning as the child wakes up and at night when she is off to sleep.
One of the ways to draw out your teenager is to share news from your own life that may be of interest to her. It could be how you dealt with a difficult customer at work, or how you met with some trouble and overcame it or how you did something you are not proud of and regret to this day. Communication always lessens the distance between you and your teenager. Also, it gives her invaluable lessons on how to navigate the adult life.
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