Communicating well with teenagers is so important but SO difficult. We’ve seen lots of – brilliant – advice posted online over the last few days and it’s made us realise why so many of our efforts have crashed and burned. So we thought we’d pass on both the expert advice on what to do and the anecdotal evidence of what not to do!
First up, how to start a conversation. The experts tell us that the worst approach we can take is to say “we need to have a chat” or “let’s talk”. It raises the defences immediately and almost never ends well. Instead, wait until you’re doing something together or are in the car (finally, an upside to the mum or dad taxi role!), start by chatting about anything that's comfortable and then work the conversation round to what you need to say. We like to think we’re pretty good at this by this stage, but there is always that sneaky suspicion that not only do the kids know exactly what’s happening and why, but that they’re enjoying our painful efforts!
Quote from one of our teens - we are true parenting experts 😂
"The ultimate irritating nagging is when it's so poorly disguised, it’s cringing. When you try to ask a question rather than nag but we know you already know the answer - it really just p****s us off."
Once you’ve got them talking, how do you avoid being shut down as soon as you bring up behaviour/schoolwork/curfews/permissions? How many times have we lovingly and politely tried to check in with a “how’s it all going?” only to be met with “why are you asking, I know I’ve got homework, if that’s what you mean and I will do it, don’t nag”. The bad news is that there’s no easy answer to this. Asking questions is the way to go, rather than simply telling them what to do but we know it takes more than that. The best advice we can pass on is to ask specific questions in a very calm, measured way and to try to only ask when it’s really necessary, rather than constantly. Yes, it feels like good parenting to us, but it just comes across as nagging to them. We need to back off and let them make their own mistakes to learn from (within reason!).
Quote from another of our teens - yep, we've got this 🙈
"There's nothing more annoying that you nagging me about stuff I've already got planned and am going to do."
It helps when you can meet them halfway or give them control, even if you think they’re wrong. If they don’t want to leave for the station when you suggest, so you tell them you’re ready to go when they are and they miss the train, they’re not going to make the same mistake next time… and you can be calmly sympathetic to them while a riotous “I told you so” song and dance is going on internally 😂
Lastly – and we all know this, but how hard is it? Be honest. If you know that parent and teen are never going to agree, tell them you’ve heard their argument and understand where they’re coming from and you hope they’ve extended you the same courtesy. But, as neither of you are going to change their opinion, how can you work together to reach a compromise? Of course, sometimes you might listen and agree with them. In that case, tell them so openly and honestly. Apologise for any mistakes. They need to understand that changing your mind and admitting it is part of growing up.
We're off to have another chat to our teens about how their A-level studies are going... pour us a large glass of wine, please, we'll be back in approximately 30 seconds!
As ever, we'd LOVE to know if you've got any tips or stories about this to share, so please do leave a comment below.
Louise & Anna x