Speak Less and Listen More When Talking to Teens

Listen on their terms, not yours.

Despite what you think, your teenagers want to talk to you. Most days it does not seem that way. Kids bury their faces in their phones, texting at quantum speeds. Who knew fingers could even move that fast?

Kids find time for Snapchat but ignore questions about what they want for dinner. Kids want to talk to you on their terms, not yours. Mine seems to want to converse at the most inconvenient times.

They are Chatty Cathy after I finish a 36-hour hospital shift and can barely keep my eyes open. When a teen is not in the mood to talk, you can not force it. As parents, we can fight it and lose or embrace it and win.

I frequently make this common parental communication mistake.

I know better than to ask these types of questions, but I fall into this conversation trap. To have a meaningful conversation with our children, we need to employ specific tools.

Ask better questions

When they respond, I practice active listening. Active listening involves giving them my full attention while responding with empathy and engagement. I ask more profound follow-up questions. I try and avoid judgment or direct advice.

Listen when they want to talk

Even if I am not in the mood, I mentally remind myself that they are. The other day my son asked a simple question about my job that evolved into a long discussion about entrepreneurship. My 6th-grade daughter wanted to tell me all about the puberty video they watched at school.

Both topics caught me off guard, but I made sure I was open and ready to listen when they signaled they wanted to talk.

Avoid advice and judgment

This communicates that they have done something wrong or could have handled it better. Teens feel judged, and as a result, shut down or walk away. Teenagers (and adults) tune out advice, but they will remember stories.

Provide advice through experience sharing

These moments demonstrate vulnerability and authenticity. Teens will apply what they heard from your experience to their own life.

Show Empathy

When my kids open up about an issue, my responses show empathy. Phrases such as, “that must be really hard on you” go along way. These responses show that you are listening and understand how they feel.

Tools in our parental tool belt

Parenthood is a journey for all of us. Active listening, sharing from experience, and showing empathy are key tools in our parental tool belt we can use to improve our relationships with our children.

Thank you to Live Your Life On Purpose for publishing this article on Medium.

Blog Author: Dr. Jeff Livingston

Main Blog Photo by: Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash