A question from one of our readers.
Q: How do you make teenagers listen and help? Going blue in the face repeating myself every day.
A: We know that teenagers can be challenging but here are our top tips to getting them on board.
At times it feels like we are banging our head against a brick wall when trying to deal with this breed they call teenagers. Overnight that gorgeous curly haired kid has grown a moustache and scrapes his knuckles on the floor when he walks because it is cool. This kid is the same kid, who would spend hours with you chatting and talking about the ins and outs of their life just a few years ago. What changed? Lots! Your teen’s brain has, and is still undergoing a lot of change and growth that sees them challenge your authority, test boundaries and basically have an opinion on everything from politics to world peace. But relax; there are some pretty simple strategies that may make a big difference in your household.
Let’s face it, many of the discussions we need to have with our kids are reminding them of what they need to do. Very rarely are we gifted with one of those kids who remembers to do exactly as they are told. Keep the instructions simple, preferably one at a time and remove any fluffy language. They lose focus. Remove the words “can” or “will you”, because I guarantee that their head conversation goes something like this, “Nope, I can’t and I won’t. Do it yourself.” Direct instructions with the verb first gives them very little wiggle room! “Bring me your shirts, please,” clearly and politely lays down the expectation and the message is not lost in the other words. Remember their brains are busy and confused. Keep it simple.
A strategy I often employ with my tween daughter is to write her lists. She likes lists because I don’t whinge at her. It also gives her a sense of satisfaction when she gets to tick things off her list. I am not for one minute saying that your teen is going to be absolutely delighted when you present them with a list of things that need to be done, but what I can tell you, is that they are going to be so relieved that it is a post-it note of words, rather than listening to the whine we are forced to use when trying to get them to listen.
When I learned about this next technique, even I was sceptical. Having struggled for some time with getting my teen son to engage, a very wise colleague of mine suggested that when I wanted him to do something, to very gently place a hand on his shoulder or make some physical contact. The focus here is on the connection and gentle touch. It tunes them in immediately, sort of like offering a puppy a treat in puppy training class. The difference in what he absorbed was phenomenal. What was even more interesting was that he recognized it too.
There are no magic fixes to get our kids to listen to us. Along with these three simple little strategies, a good deal of patience, love and being a good listener goes a long way with these young people as they are negotiating their teen journey. I would love to hear your feedback on how these have worked for you, and of course any other strategies you have that make your life that little bit less testing.