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Preventing communication roadblocks with our teenagers

January 9, 2015

Here’s a great idea…

In his book, You and Your Adolescent, Laurence Steinburg says, “The first step toward establishing good communication within the family is reducing negatives. Without realizing it, parents sometimes speak to adolescents in ways that are all but guaranteed to cut off communication” (pp. 30-32).

In other words…

How often do we speak to our teenagers as though they are brainless and incapable of being rational human beings? “What did you do that for? Just like a teenager!” “When are you going to stop being such a whiner? Grow up already!!” To remedy their inability to act like a fully, developed mature adults, we barrage them with commands, threats and sermons on how they should improve themselves, or we trivialize their feelings: “How many times have I told you not to do that?” “You think you have it tough! When I was your age…” When we speak to our teenagers in these ways, we do not inspire them to be rational human beings; in fact, our children get defensive and put up communication roadblocks.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…

The next time you are not pleased with the actions of your teenager, instead of playing the blame and shame game, simply state how you feel: When you _______ [describe the behavior nonjudgmentally], I feel _______ [describe your feelings], because _______ [clarify the effect of this behavior on your life]. In using this formula, you do not judge your teenager nor are you imposing a solution. This way, your teenager can problem-solve, change his or her behavior, and come up with a solution without losing face. This will ease the tension between you and your teenager, and help you better understand each other.

To find out more…

about parenting, check out Getting Our Hearts Right: Three Keys to Better Relationships, or The Parenting Journey programs at uaex.edu/parents, follow us at facebook.com/navigatinglife or contact your local county Extension agent. You can also read You and Your Adolescent.

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