Talking With Teens -- Tips for Better Communication
Parents and teens can bridge the communication gap with a little patience and a healthy measure of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Here are 6 tips for parents and 6 for teenagers.
A parent's view of speech development: it begins in infancy,
blossoms in childhood, and stops dead in its tracks at adolescence.
A teenager's view of speech development: "My parents don't
understand a word I'm saying."
You don't need a degree in communications to know that parents
and teenagers seem to spend more time talking at and past one
another than to or with one another. Chalk it up to different
agendas, the stress of daily life, or familiarity breeding contempt. Whatever
the reason, adolescents and their folks are as good at making conversation as
the construction crew at the Tower of Babel.
But with a little give and take, a lot of patience, and a
healthy measure of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, parents and teens may be able to remove the
roadblocks hindering two-way communication.
To help understand talking with teens, WebMD interviewed two
experts in adolescent development: Laurence Steinberg, PhD, Distinguished University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor
of Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia; and Carol Maxym, PhD, who
counsels families in Honolulu and Washington, D.C.
First, says Steinberg, parents need to
recognize that "although your child doesn't have the same level of
knowledge, information, wisdom or experience as you do, he or she has
essentially the same logical tools and can see through logical fallacies and
lapses in what's sensible."
In other words, the "do-it-because-I-said-so" approach
to talking with teens doesn't work anymore. "They can't be bullied around by power-assertive
statements by parents that aren't based on any kind of logical reality,"
Teenagers have exquisitely sensitive B.S. detectors, agrees
Maxym, who counsels families of troubled adolescents in private practice.
"Parents need to be emotionally authentic. Don't try to act as though you
are angry when you're really not. Don't try to tell your child 'I'm really hurt
when you don't go to school,' when what you really are is angry. Kids know
their parents really well and pick up on it, and as soon as you as a parent
become inauthentic, you've lost any chance of real communication," says
Research also shows that "the big barrier is in how parents
and teenagers define issues," If the parent sees a teen's messy room as a
moral issue, and the teen sees it as a matter of choice, they may never reach a
mutually satisfactory solution, says Steinberg.
What can you do to communicate better? Our experts offer these
tips both parents and teenagers: