It happens all the time: Your teenager walks out on you, yells “You don’t understand anything,” and slams the door for effect. This turns out to be the closest you’ll ever get to a conversation because for the rest of the week, they will just shrug, eyes glued on their phones, when you ask them about school.
Why is it so hard to talk to teenagers? Is there any hope of them ever going to want to have a healthy conversation?
It’s a tough situation to be in, but according to experts, there are different ways you can get (or rather, trick) a teen to politely talk or listen to you. We made a research and asked around for tips on how to effectively communicate with your teenager, and here’s what we found:
Be more objective and pay attention.
It’s hard not to be in overprotective-parent mode, especially when we confront our teens about certain issues like sex, drugs or alcohol. But one way to really engage your teen is if you are more objective and less judgmental about what they have to say. It’s difficult not to cringe but showing your teenagers that you’re not afraid to address certain topics and be open about their own vulnerabilities are a way to get your teenage son or daughter’s attention and get them to really speak up uninhibited.
Also, it would help to just let them speak for a moment and talk less, or rather “put duct tape over your mouth” as Vicki Hoefle, author of the book “Duct Tape Parenting,” had said. Hoefle said that sometimes, parents should quit being right all the time; they need to take a back seat and let their teenage children be “the star” of the show. This will encourage them to look forward to any conversation with you.
Understand how your teenager prefers to communicate
You may find that your teenaged son or daughter would only talk during certain moments in a day, like when you’re in the car driving home or in the kitchen while making dinner, or in his/her room before bed time. Now, take advantage of these opportunities and squeeze in everything you might want to say. Yep, this certainly looks like ambush, but if it could get your teenager to talk, then seize the moment! Spontaneous conversations in moments when you’re not being rushed are often the best times to start a meaningful conversation.
Some suggest waiting up for them after a date or night out with friends, as this is a time when they are particularly interested in a little chit-chat. It would help to fix your child some snacks or drinks while waiting.
Avoid any kind of power struggle with your teen
The more you tell your teen what to do, the more he/she becomes resistant. According to James and Janet Lehman, child behaviour specialists who founded “The Total Transformation Program,” ignoring you gives your teenager a sense of control in situations when they know they have the lower hand. They will tune out everything you have to say—your rules, your opinions—so they won’t be forced to listen.
Avoid engaging in these tiny battles so not to give them the power to ignore you. Even if they feign disinterest, act as if they can hear you. Speak about your rules and your expectations clearly, and of course, calmly. Try not to be drawn into the argument. You know you’re being heard, even if your teen tries to act like a toddler stick their fingers to their ears. Stay focused and make sure you deliver whatever it is you want to say, and be sure you dodge any attempt to knock you off topic.
Getting your teenager to actually talk and listen to you seems unthinkable. But you’ll be surprised at how your conversation evolves over time and how insightful they actually are. The key is to be 100% available and create any opportunity for interaction.