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How to Talk to Teenagers Without Yelling

Does it seem like every conversation with your teenager ends in a power struggle or argument ? There are no guaranteed strategies to eliminate all parent-teen miscommunication but learning some tips for how to talk to teenagers can improve the odds!

Parent talking to teenager.

  • Be very clear about your emotions instead of leaving it to your teenager to interpret them. Instead of saying, “Why didn’t you answer the phone! You really need to answer the phone!” try, “I was really worried when you didn’t answer the phone. Can we figure out a way to get in touch after school every day so that I know you are okay?”
  • Focus on behavior. Instead of saying “You are really lazy,” try “I am frustrated that you haven’t taken out the garbage yet even though it is your responsibility after dinner.”
  • Avoid generalizations. As soon as young people hear blanket statements about their behavior they begin searching for examples that refute you. Instead of saying “You never clean your room,” try “I noticed that you forgot to clean your room this morning.”
  • Be as specific as possible to make sure your teen understands exactly what you are for. Instead of saying “Don’t forget to mow the lawn,” try “Please mow the lawn before you hang out with your friends this afternoon.”
  • Stick to one topic at a time. Avoid sentences like this one: “I want to talk to you about your academic performance tonight. By the way, I didn’t like the way that you talked to your sister yesterday.” Instead try, “I would really like to talk with you about school. When would be a good time to do that?”
  • Take a break when you feel a power struggle mounting. Don’t hesitate to take three breaths, name your feelings out loud and state specifically what you would like from your teen.
  • Apologize if you need to.
  • LISTENING is more important than talking. Listening attentively shows your teen that you respect them and sets a positive tone for the conversation. When your teenager is talking with you try to remember to:
  1. Establish eye contact but don’t stare.
  2. Use short phrases that let your teen know you are listening like “Uh-huh” and “Yeah.”
  3. Don’t interrupt your teen in the middle of a thought or sentence.
  4. Ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand like “Can you explain that again? I want to be sure I get what you are saying.”
  5. Check in to see if you are getting it. You might say “I am hearing you say that you are angry with me because I lost my temper after dinner.”