What are the new rules to help you communicate with your tween or teen? Are your responses doomed to failure and how can you understand who your teenagers are under all the attitude and bravado? We seem to have new rules in which to communicate with teens in today’s constantly evolving world of the internet, social media and electronics.
As you undoubtedly have experienced, a teenager’s initial response to any request that goes against what he or she wants, is almost always some form of objection. Unfortunately, parents tend to respond to that objection. That is, they often question the validity of, or criticize, the objection itself. To do so, more often than not, leads to a Mexican Stand-off because any response to the teen’s response, prompts yet another response. It’s all pretty frustrating and exhausting. And with each added response, you move further away from compliance. Here’s an example of a dialogue that may seem to resonate.
Tommy, would you help me bring in the groceries from the car?
What do you mean you can’t?
I can’t, I’m doing something else.
You don’t look like you’re doing something else.
I was about to. I have math homework, and I was about to get my book out.
You can help me with the groceries, and then you can do your homework.
No, if I don’t start this now, I’ll never finish and I’ll get a poor grade.
Tommy, I need you to help me bring in the groceries, now!
You don’t have to make demands on me and in a loud voice. You always try to boss me around. You’re like a drill sergeant.
You just watch it, Tommy.
You better watch it, Mom!
As you’ll note, this mother’s request for help not only went unheeded but ended in a contentious mess. As suggested the teenager’s response to something he didn’t want to do ended in a form of rejection.
Whereas, if you want your teen to do something they don’t feel like doing, you have to be pleasantly persistent. You have to stay with your initial request and NEVER pick up on the reasons they offer for not doing whatever it is you want them to do. Another point – don’t pick up on the disrespectful attitude that will undoubtedly be reflected in their words. Responding to them and challenging them only moves you further away from getting your request responded to. Your tone should be similar to the tone of your first request – respectful and not challenging, and definitely business-like. You are not getting into a battle of wills because it will go nowhere. This is the way teens think and for those irritable years, you have to use psychology.
I’d like to recommend a very helpful book which clarifies teen issues and guides you to positive outcomes. The book is entitled, I’d Listen to My Parents if They’d Just Shut Up: What to Say and Not Say When Parenting Teens by Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D.