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How to Talk to Teenagers so They’ll Listen

The teenage years are a dreaded time for many parents, as teens begin to rebel and dismiss their parents’ good counsel, reaching out for approval from their peers instead. But there are things that you as a parent can do to strengthen the quality of your relationship with your teen, and thus make him or her more receptive to your advice and instruction.

Perhaps the most fundamental step to getting your teenage son or daughter to trust you and listen to you is to be loving and kind to your child. If you strive to have a harmonious and respectful relationship with your child, fewer conflicts will arise. That does not mean not disciplining your child, because correcting a child when they do wrong (in a compassionate, thoughtful manner) is every bit as important as giving them your love, your attention, and providing for them.

Being positive is also important. Whether you’re at work, at home or elsewhere, trying to live in harmony with others is usually key to making good things happen in life. Parenting is no different. If your children see that you tend to look at the positive — or even humorous — side of a situation, they will be more inclined to come to you for advice, to share their daily experiences, and to trust your judgment. On the other hand, if you don’t take time to listen to their concerns before you pronounce mandates, or if you largely ignore your children, or if you’re overly critical, your child will be reluctant to open up to you and may in fact begin to build hostility or resentment. Being excessively critical or demanding as a parent can also greatly harm your child’s self-esteem, not only in the teenage years, but even for life.

Make time to communicate with your children as often as possible. Frequent communication and sharing of affection are important. There again, the more you try to stay connected to each and all of your children, the closer you will be to them and they will be to you. The closer you are emotionally, the more they will respect you and want to please you.

Give your teenagers plenty of positive attention. If you give them loving attention often, they will not act up to get your negative attention, to compensate.

Work to maintain a stable, predictable routine, allowing for new pursuits, play time, etc. If there’s too much going on in your lives, either in or outside the home, you and your children will feel like you’re being pulled from different directions, and all parties may start feeling stressed. In that case, it’s time to slow down the pace or omit some activities.

Teens grapple with self-esteem and identity issues a lot. Be supportive; pay well-deserved compliments, no matter how trivial you may think the compliment is. We all love good things to be said about us.

Lead by example — if there are behaviors or activities that you very much don’t want your teen engaging in (violence, profanity, drinking alcohol or using drugs, to name a few), then you as a parent must model the behavior that you want from your child. You are their biggest teacher, mom and dad are the most influential people in their lives.

Lastly, stay emotionally connected and spend time with your teenager. There is no substitute for a parent spending tender moments with his or her children, whether it’s out and about, or quietly watching TV or working on a hobby at home. Children want your attention and your acceptance … and even though most teens would deny it, they also want — and need — your direction, and thoughtful discipline.

In today’s world, it is more important than ever to be vigilant over your children, monitoring as closely as needed activities such as texting, use of the internet, TV viewing, and so forth. As we well know, the teenage years are a time when children become concerned with their image at school, their appearance, being accepted by peers, etc. It is also the time when many start experimenting with sex. At a key developmental junction like this, it is important for parents to monitor their teenagers’ activities as closely as necessary, and to work to maintain an open, honest and ongoing dialogue.

The more a parent shows concern and love for a teenage son or daughter, and the more dialogue there is, the less prone the teen will be to succumbing to peer pressures of any kind. Parents are extremely influential to their children, even when a teenager’s blossoming thirst for independence and autonomy might make the child behave as though he or she is unconcerned about a parent’s opinions. The truth is, if the parent has taken the time to develop and nurture an emotional relationship with his or her children, these children will still look up to the parent and yearn for the parent’s approval, even when they give the impression that they do not.

The teenage years are a challenging time for most teens. However, having parents who guide, support, and discipline their children with love, common sense and consistency, will make a world of difference in how smoothly the teen transitions into adulthood, and how emotionally prepared the young man or woman will be for life’s multiplying challenges in the years ahead.

By Jamell Andrews

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