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How to talk to your teen without going crazy

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Dealing with teenagers makes you crazy. Sometimes just trying to have a casual conversation turns into a full-scale war of insults. A parent simply asks “how was your day”, and the teen growls and barks. Moms are interested, or at the least trying to keep a friendly line of communication open.

Following a few simple word rules can save the day. Avoid the word ‘you’, ‘your’ and ‘yours’. These are second person pronouns, perceived by teens to be an invasive way for parents to snoop. This does present a challenge in simple conversations. Instead of “how was your day”, say, “I had a really nice day”, and wait for a response. Do not put your life on hold waiting.

Teens are notoriously self-absorbed and have high social needs. Parents can use this knowledge to ensure teens perform household chores, do their homework, and follow the rules of curfew. Parents can enforce consequences for infractions that directly affect the teen. For example, no chores, no social time, poor grades, no social time, coming home late, no social time. When the consequence directly affects the teen, their need for interaction with friends is more powerful that their laziness.

Be willing to listen to the detailed drama that occurs in your teen’s life. As you listen, make frequent eye contact, nod your head, and make a few sympathetic sounds. Do not share your ideas or opinions. If your teen asks ‘don’t you think that’s awful, weird, etc” simple nod in agreement. It does not matter what you think, your teen is looking for affirmation of his or her thoughts. At this point, your teen is talking to you (which is what you want) so do not rock the boat. These conversations are inroads for times when the issues are larger. Being willing to listen to the small stuff builds trust in your teen and encourages him or her to include you when struggling with important decisions.

Remembering to avoid ‘you’, using consequences that directly impact your teens social needs, and being willing to listen can get you and your teen through the tough spots.

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