“How do I talk to my teen?” It’s one of the most frequent questions we get from dads.
Let’s review the major parental styles: authoritarian parents who are demanding and lack warmth; neglectful parents who ignore their children and provide few limits; indulgent parents who love their kids to death but are short on limits and discipline; and authoritative parents who provide the right balance of direction, freedom, and responsibility.
Authoritative parents talk to their children in a respectful way. They don’t pressure, cajole or exert undue influence. While they provide structure, they focus on listening, explaining, and discussing issues of concern.
Dad’s sore throat
Be brief. Express yourself clearly and cogently. Kids easily tune out if they get bored or overwhelmed.
Be positive. Negativity and criticism can impair confidence and increase dependence. If you are nagging you are inadvertently creating dependence and resentment. Support your teen in a calm, stable manner
Be clear. Don’t give too many messages all at once. Be firm on the critical stuff, flexible on much of the rest.
Increase responsibility as it is accepted. When your kid follows expectations and manages things well, let him do more. Show confidence in his abilities.
Listen before launching. Try to understand the situation from your teen’s perspective. Refrain from immediately jumping in and directing. Effective listening requires full and focused attention. Create the space for making that happen.
Katherine Whitehorn, British journalist, said, “A good listener is not someone who has nothing to say. A good listener is a good talker with a sore throat.”
Driven batty, then shifting gears
Bill used to take his kids to school on his way to work. He was often driven batty by how unconcerned they were as he sat in the driveway, watching the clock and waiting for his two precious sons to come sauntering out the front door.
No matter how he cajoled, demanded or pleaded, he just couldn’t get them to see the problems created for him when he got to work late. So he tried a different approach. He traded his anger and resentment for clear communication.
“I will be leaving in 30 minutes,” he said clearly and calmly. “If you don’t have all your school materials and yourself out in the car, you will need to walk to school and explain why you are late.”
Kids need to be given responsibility and accept the results of not following through. When Bill became calm and provided clear instruction with consequences for not following through, his sons became better at accepting responsibility.
Most of all, never pass up the chance to say, “I love you.” There is absolutely no limit on the frequency of letting your child know how much you love and value her. This goes a long way—and is the shortest path—to good relations.