Tired of feeling like you’re talking to a brick wall when you try to communicate with your teen? Ranging from fun to fundamental, here are six different ways to shake up the old routine that isn’t working, and help begin a new era of listening and connection at home.
1. Make drive-time count! If you have a teen driver who either has to borrow your vehicle or is still working on supervised hours with a Learner’s Permit, insist on respectful, engaged conversation with you, if they expect you to hand over the keys and hop in for their much-wanted time behind the wheel. No loud music. No headphones. No YouTube. No zoning out. This is conversational prime time. Make the most of it!
2. Soften your tone. This one may not apply to you, but often times there is a self-reinforcing pattern in place with teens and parents where: teens tune out parents…because parents are being too loud or pushy…because teens are tuning out parents…because parents are being too loud or pushy…because teens are tuning out parents… Crazy making, right?!? As a parent, the most effective way to stop this cycle is to calm your self, quiet down, and take charge with compassion and confidence. Rather than getting louder to demand their attention, get quieter to invite their attention. You may think it is easier said than done, or just sounds like hokey counselor’s nonsense, but really try it out. It is surprisingly effective. Works with spouses, too.
3. Partner with technology. Try this one out with the teen who prefers screen time to pretty much everything. Make a short video of yourself telling your teen whatever it is you really want him or her to hear. (Three minutes or less is preferred. Don’t even think about going over five.) This method will work best if you only do it occasionally for something important, and if you are willing to be creative and fun with it. Send it to your teen with an invitation to reply with comments as if they were critiquing you on YouTube, or something.
4. Take some time to “hang out” with your teen first. Before shifting into sharing the message that matters to YOU, take some time to experience something that matters to YOUR TEEN. This doesn’t mean we have to become second-class citizens in our teens’ universe. But it is important for us to consider how much we expect them to pay attention to us without us being willing to pay attention to them.
5. Reward them for removing headphones and looking at you with a listening face. Let’s not get crazy with cash awards or anything, here. But you might be surprised what a game-changer it could be if you begin to find simple ways to reward your teen for taking off headphones, putting aside devices or other distractions, and looking at you with at least an appearance of respectful attention. Here are some possibilities, but you can use anything that teaches them it is in their best interest to listen when you speak to them: – Explain that this behavior builds up points in your grace-bank for the next time they mess up big time. – Occasionally give them a treat such as dinner at their favorite restaurant or a new something you know they’ll like. – Treat them with a free pass from some family activity they’d rather skip. – Treat them with a free pass from a regular household chore.
6. Regularly get your teen’s attention, just so you can tell them something good about them. Be sure you aren’t establishing a pattern that you only want their attention so you can tell them something they don’t want to hear. Get their attention so you can share something you like about them. Get their attention so you can ask about something they like talking about. Get their attention so you can draw attention to an area of positive growth you have seen in them. Get their attention so you can just tell them, “I love you.” Yes, we need their attention to share things they may not like hearing. But let’s not discourage them or wear them out. Give them some conversational goodies on a regular basis, and you’ll go a long way to establishing open lines of respectful attention and communication between you and your teen.