Communication can dry up during adolescence which is why people identify so much with Harry Enfield’s Kevin and Perry characters and that’s why the teenage stage has often been called the “grunt stage” but communication is a two-way process.
Most of us are great at talking but less good at listening and understanding, and we often only half listen to our kids.
Here are some classic ways to switch off your teenager:
Asking too many questions
“Why did you say that?” “What did you say?”
“Do your homework right now and don’t argue”
“You should know better at your age”
“How could you be so stupid?”
“I’m so sorry for you, you poor thing”
Rescuing – doing it for them
“Alright, I’ll do your homework for you so you don’t get into trouble”
Jumping to conclusions
“Late again! I suppose you’ve been up to no good getting back at this hour!”
Threatening and shouting
“If you don’t shape up you’re grounded for a week”
Always knowing best
“I told you that would happen, didn’t I!”
Most of us find ourselves lecturing, ordering and jumping to conclusions or even threatening our teenagers but if we always presume the worst and speak to our kids like this we block communication.
And, effective communication is the oil that lubricates a happy family and builds a lasting relationship between teenagers and their parents.
Here are some positive parent tips for good communication:
Remain silent most of the time!
Be aware and sensitive to your child’s body language, e.g. whether they look disappointed, worried, angry, excited, pleased etc…..
Show you are really listening by saying “I see, uh-huh and mmm” occasionally, and looking into their eyes without just staring to maintain good eye contact
Reflect back the gist of what they have said to you to check you have understood them clearly
Avoid rushing in giving advice or offering suggestions immediately (Tough, I know, but believe me this one REALLY works)
Show your teenager by the tone of your voice and body language that you really respect and care and are genuinely trying to understand where they are coming from.
It’s worth remembering that most teenagers don’t like face to face chats. So it’s easier if you are doing something else at the time like emptying the dishwasher, driving them to a football practise or peeling the potatoes.
Often they like to talk when you’ve just settled down with a cup of coffee to watch your favourite TV programme or just climbed into bed exhausted or just run a lovely hot bath, but these can be the “Golden Moments” – the deep and meaningful chats – the ones that connect you to your kids and help bridge the gap of empathy.
So, go with the flow and keep remembering the bigger picture to your parenting – bringing up the happy, confident, well-balanced teenager; tomorrow’s adult – tomorrow’s parent.
Learn, laugh and enjoy the adventure and remember a smile is a curve that puts a lot of things straight!