If you have problems getting through when you try to talk to your teenager, there may some ways to improve communication. Too many parents fall into the trap of engaging with their teenagers in a confrontational way. Instead of having conversations with their teenagers, they end up bickering or nagging. Research suggests teenagers switch off when faced with criticism.1 Although communication may not have started in this manner, the frustration experienced by parent and child can be hard on the family as a whole.
Develop your communication skills
Communication skills are normally learned by example. Most people will never receive any instruction on how to communicate effectively. By taking some time to learn how to talk more effectively, you can greatly improve interactions with your teenager. Check out books or online resources that will teach you to be a better communicator. Find resources to help you deal with specific problems like teenage pregnancy or bullying.2 Learn to talk about some of your problems with your teenager. If your child sees that you do not mind sharing problems with them, they may be more open to sharing with you. There is a fine line when doing this, as you do not want to burden your teenager with anxiety.
Talk Instead of Lecture
When your teenager does something you do not approve of, try to avoid tackling the issue head-on with criticism. If you find out your teenager has been drinking, the best approach is unlikely to be confronting them with something like “You should not be drinking at your age!”
Instead, try to explain that their behavior has upset you, and explain why. You are likely to get a more positive encounter if you preface your conversation with something like “I just want you to know that your drinking upsets me because of the damage you may be doing to yourself, and the consequences you may face.” You can then go on to explain your issues and ask your teenager to take these into account the next time he or she may be tempted to have a drink.
Make it Easier for Your Child to Talk to You
Avoid asking questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Instead of asking your teenager if they enjoyed the ballgame or the movie, ask them to tell you about the ballgame or movie.
Always try to treat your teenager as a peer when you talk. While you may not agree with opinions your son or daughter may express, do not condemn him or her for having those opinions.
The more you practice these good communication skills, and the more your teenager will respond to you.