Do you do more lecturing, or more listening? Recent studies have shown that teens retain about 5% of the information that is “forced” upon them, compared to the 55% they retain from open dialog and communication. When I was working with teens in crisis we would often discuss everyday situations that led to negative behaviors. One of the most common phrases I would hear from teenage boys & girls was, “I get mad because they talk at me, not to me.”
Now, most of you already know I’m not a fan of the phrase “just drop it”.
I believe that it’s a parent’s right, no, responsibility, to NOT “just drop it” until they are satisfied with the message they are trying to convey. But, that’s the thing, if you are not conveying a message, you are not communicating effectively.
Here are a few tips for listening, not lecturing.
1. Ask questions you want answers to. Nothing is more frustrating to a teen than a parent barking question after question, without pausing to get the answers they are asking for.
2. Use your “mom or dad voice” and not your “lecture” voice. The guys in the group home would tell us all the time, “When she started using that voice, I just tuned her out and shook my head yes…” If that’s the response you’re going for, do your thing.
3. Don’t make assumptions, instead ask questions. Of course, you have to not be doing #1 here first. Rather than assume you know why something was done, or not done, ask your teen. Get the reasons, and the words, directly from them. It gives them a voice, and lets them put into words how they were feeling or thinking.
In my opinion, lecturing does not work, because you take the focus off of your teen or their behavior, and instead put the focus on the parent. I say over and over again on this page that we must “keep the lines of communication open”, and if you are freaking out, I guarantee that your teen is not listening.
Look, you don’t have to be your teens BFF. Actually, please don’t even try to be your teens BFF, be the parent. However, you can be a calm, productive, and rational parent. That is, if you check your emotions, know where you stand, and are ready to have a real conversation with your teen.
Until next time,