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How to Listen to Your Teenager


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When was the last time your teenager complained that you do not usually listen when your teenager tries to communicate with you? Lack of communication between the parents and the teenager can lead to a great deal of frustration, anger, resentment and argument. This can result in the teenager becoming more rebellious towards the parents as a way to pay back the parents. It can also lead to relationship breakdown between the parents and the teenager.

Many of the teenager’s life problems can be helped if the parents and the teenager maintain good communication. It is during this time that the teenager faces the various vicissitudes of life and needs the guidance and wisdom of their parents. When their communication with the parents is poor, they will  turn to outside influences such as their peers and the mass media for direction. This can result in them following the wrong influences which can impact them in an adverse fashion.

The reality is that many parents struggle with their teenagers and need a little help in the area of communication. Before we move on any further, let us consider some important facts.

Teenage behaviour and communication 

Here are 12 basic facts about teenage behaviour with regards to communication. The more you understand these facts and apply them in your communication with your teenager, the better is your relationship with your teenager.

  1. The success of your communication is not determined by what your message does to your teenager but by what your teenager does with your message. Hence, the proverb about good advice that falls on deaf ears. So, it is always wise for you to begin with the teenager’s perspective than your own.
  2. Most teenagers interpret messages in such a way to make themselves feel comfortable and secure. So, always allow your teenager sufficient time to accept any communication that may engender a feeling of discomfort and insecurity.
  3. Teenagers are more likely to defend and reinforce their values when you attack them blatantly. Your teenager is more likely to accept negative feedback from you if your teenager does not feel threatened.
  4. Teenagers usually pay more attention to messages that are relevant to their situations or circumstances. When they perceive that your message is irrelevant to them, they will ignore you no matter how good or important you think your message is.
  5. When teenagers feel insecure in a relationship, they stop listening. Teenagers may stop communicating because they question their parents’ intentions and do not believe that the parents have their interests at heart.
  6. The more you listen to your teenager, the more your teenager listens to you. Your teenager feels that you have acted fairly and are ready to take on board what you have to say.
  7. Teenagers are less likely to change if you do not provide the necessary opportunity and environment for change. Instruction alone is insufficient for change. Teenagers need a positive environment to put into practice your ideas about change.
  8. Consultation ensures the acceptance of a proposal for change. Consultation reinforces to your teenager that your teenager is important to you.
  9. The meaning of a message lies in the way that it is interpreted than the way that it is articulated. The more knowledge you have about your teenager, the more accurate you are in predicting how your message will be interpreted.
  10. Our internal conflicts and psychological problems hamper our communication with others. To put it colloquially, the more hang ups you have, the more muddled is your communication with your teenager.
  11. Teenagers do not usually follow a routine, especially with regards to communication. As parents, you must be ready to communicate whenever and wherever your teenager has the need.
  12. Teenagers take a long time to come to something that is really important. So, be patient with your teenager, you may have to sit with your teenager for hours before your teenager opens up to you.

Listening skills

These are some suggestions to improve on your listening skills.

  1. Show your interest. Make eye contact. Pay full attention to your teenager and do not be distracted by the television, newspaper or your chores.
  2. Allow your teenager the opportunity to talk. Don’t interrupt when it is your teenager’s turn to talk.
  3. Try not to jump to conclusions. Keep an open mind and don’t judge before you have the full knowledge. Be loving as you listen and don’t overact. Think before you say anything in response, especially if it is an emotional reaction.
  4. When responding, let your teenager know that you have heard what was said by using a feedback technique. For example, say something like “You are saying you …. “ or “ When you said…….. I take it to mean that…..”
  5. Be open to accept that you might have missed the point that your teenager has presented. It is alright to admit that you are in the wrong.
  6. Be aware of non-verbal signs and clues. These include shrugging your shoulders, tone of voice, crossing arms or legs, nodding, eye contact or looking away and facial expressions etc.
  7. Allow your teenager the space to express feelings. Remember that feelings are neither right nor wrong.
  8. Remember that you can’t listen and talk at the same time.
  9. Try to stay focused on the main points. Don’t be distracted by other issues. If there are more than one issues, tackle them one at a time.
  10. Listen without planning on what you are going to say in response. Let go of your own agenda.
  11. Do not bring up old scores. Do not mix up the present with the past.
  12. Do not compare your teenager with someone whom you think is better. This will cause a great deal of resentment and anger.

Bringing up a teenager is a challenge. Communication is often difficult. The golden rule is “Always be ready to communicate when your teenager calls on you, no matter the time of the day and the timing!”

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