3 Reasons Your Teens Tune You Out


communicating with teens

As my kids get older, I tend to wax nostalgic over those baby and toddler days– how sweetly they would look at me, how eagerly they would listen. Sure, most of our conversations centered around Teddy Grahams and Dora the Explorer. But I loved their desire to spend time with me. I couldn’t wait until they were older so that we could have deep, meaningful conversations about real issues.

Little did I know my older kids would spend more time sighing and rolling their eyes than actually talking to me. The tween and teen years are fraught with challenges. But the truth is, our kids just want to be heard, validated, and understood. {Tweet This} After navigating some tricky talks, I’ve learned a few things about why kids tune parents out and how to change it. Here are some tips for communicating with teens.

1. You’re talking too much

It sounds counter-intuitive, right? If I want my child to listen to me, shouldn’t I be saying something? But if you really want your child to listen, you must return the favor. How often do we as women tell our husbands to stop trying to fix our problems and just listen? Yet we tend to forget that our children might need the same thing from us. Yes, sometimes they are being petty or overdramatic or are stressing more than the situation warrants. But maybe now isn’t the time to point it out. Maybe now is the time to listen and hug (if they’ll let you) and let them know you’re on their side. There will be time for advice later when the initial onslaught of emotions has had time to abate. For now, let them know if they’re talking, you’re listening.

2. You’re dictating

“Gracie, here’s what you need to do.” I interrupted my daughter time after time with those words and then watched her shut down. All she heard was, “You are incapable of handling your life. Let me step in and do it for you.” Of course, I just wanted to help! But if our kids don’t learn how to solve today’s problems on their own, they won’t be prepared to handle the bigger issues at college, in the workplace, or in their marriages and families.

Instead of dictating what your child should do in a given situation, consider asking questions. When people are encouraged to think through situations for themselves, they can take ownership of the answer and learn how to apply the experience in other areas of life. When we hand a solution to our kids on a silver platter, they rarely think of it beyond that given set of circumstances—if they even accept the advice we gave in the first place.

3. You’re interrogating them

We tend to think of face-to-face conversation as the ideal, but sometimes it is hard to stare someone in the eyes and lay open your soul. Looking at your mom while sharing your problems is almost more than most kids can bear. If you sense your teen has something they want to share—or if you’re just hoping for an opportunity for a slightly deeper conversation—try talking in the car. Take them with you to run errands and leave the radio off. Something about being able to be close while looking out the window can help them to open up. If they’re still keeping quiet, check out these ideas for getting them to open up.

What’s your favorite tip for talking to teens?

Comments


  • I try to capture moments in the car. She doesn’t have to make eye contact and we can get through some tough topics without interruption.

  • Dawn

    Sometimes they just want to stay up, but bedtime is a great time to listen!