I have teens, so I understand how easily what seems like an innocent question/inquiry turns into your teen stomping off to their room and refusing to speak! So here are some tips I have that can help reduce the chances of a defensive response.
Think before you ask! Teens often see questions by parents as “snooping” and some can get defensive before the parent even asks anything! So know that how you word the question is important- sound curious, not confrontational. It’s imperative to reduce/get rid of sarcasm in your voice because many teens are very sensitive to sarcasm from parents.
Any time your teen wants to talk, stop what you are doing and listen. For many parents, these moments don’t happen often enough, so when they do want to talk, take advantage, even if it means delaying cooking, cleaning or chores. Will your teen say I want to talk? Probably not, but if they start talking to you about stuff, listen.
Try not to give advice unless asked, or if you ask if they would like advice. Much more likely to listen to what you have to say this way. Don’t problem solve too early into the conversation.
This is a reach for some parents, but asking your teen for advice on problems in your life builds their confidence and recognizes that your child is wise. Try it, you may be surprised what nuggets of wisdom you get!
Asking questions of each other, such as from the book IF or the game Imaginiff or the Ungame are great conversation starters. I have learned so much about my own children and their friends by using these products.
Everyday look for ways to compliment or notice something positive they have done. Works for adults too!
Don’t take things too personally from your teen. I know this is a hard one, but important. Chances are their “attitude” has nothing to do with you, but something that is going on with friends.
And finally, these tips are not going to work all the time! But they should work some of the time, and the important thing is to continue to try and build the relationship, so that when things go south, which they will, your teen is more likely to listen to you (eventually!).
Devona L Marshall is a therapist at Kettle Moraine Counseling in West Bend WI and she has two teens in high school and a 21 year old who gave her a run for her money when he was a teen. She can be reached at Devona@kettlemorainecounseling.com