Morty is my 5 year old dog, a miniature dachshund that has a mind of his own and a stubborn personality; a standard among the breed. However, when he wants to eat, he will tell me. When he wants some water, he will let me know. When he needs to go out, a simple bark near the back door communicates his desires.
And then I have teenage humans in my house….
2 of them. Hunger will usually be preceded by some sort of angry verbal outburst that has nothing to do with food. This is all spurred on simply by asking a question such as “what did you get on your math test today” . Their responses flow through a spectrum of non-disclosure and silence to verbal abuse and blaming others (usually teachers).
How do parents decipher this foreign teenage language???
This communication dysfunction is common amongst the teenage species. Teaching emotional intelligence (or putting words to describe our feelings) does not come easily. Over the past 15 years in working with teenagers and parents, I have learned some very good tips for communicating. It appears the best way to teach proper communication, as a parent, is to MODEL the behavior yourself. This does not mean that your children will learn the right way, however this does ensure they will understand and respect how you as a parent wish to be treated.
So here are a few tips for maximizing communication with your teenager:
- Start early. Keep lines of communication open, even if they are not reciprocated right away. Share something about your day, a failure and a success. Stay interested in the things your teenager does share with you, even if it pains you to hear about them.
- Be kind, even when you are being mistreated. Take your emotions out of it. Don’t take it personally. Use calm tones and communicate how your teen should treat you.
- Be clear. If you have read this far, congratulations. Most of us start to drift when the conversation draws on and on. Communicate clearly and efficiently. Avoid antidotes and stories about when you were a teen. There is a time and place for these stories, just use them sparingly.
- Stick to your word. Sometimes as parents, we answer questions when we are busy and forget to follow through. Forgetting to follow though on ANYTHING will send the message to your child that the conversations you have are unimportant. This also is true for saying “no”. IT IS A PARENT’S RESPONSIBILITY TO TEACH THEIR CHILDREN TO ACCEPT NO AS AN ANSWER.
- Practice what you preach. The days of ‘do as I say, and not as I do” are gone. Teenagers have a vast pool of information at their disposal (the web) and are not afraid to use it. They know better. They have seen the alternative. And they will (and should) challenge old thoughts and habits that should no longer be in practice.
- Take a Time Out. My wife often hides in the closet just for a moment of silence. I prefer the bathroom. Parents need a time out too. Take them daily. Your children will also learn this technique once they see you taking a time out.
Andrew Staffier, LCSW, MHA
Pace Counseling Group is a professional counseling firm located in San Antonio, Texas. We are focused on continuously improving the quality of life for our clients and their families. We are currently accepting new clients with no wait list. Insurances accepted. Make your first appointment online by clicking here.
To learn more, visit us at Pace Counseling Group or call (210) 481-3727.