Many parents find understanding and communicating with their teen challenging. It may seem that you no longer know how to talk to the child that you once knew so well. Below are a few strategies on how to stay connected with your child and deal with challenging behavior.
Choose the Right Time
Sometimes when you or your teenager are feeling angry, it is a good idea to pick another time to discuss the negative behaviour. It may be more sensible to say “I will chat to you about this later when we are both calmer”. Saying “we” instead of “you” prevents him/her from becoming defensive. None of us has ever gotten calmer by somebody accusing us of not being calm!
What You Say and How You Say It
When you are speaking to your teen, try to use the same tone of voice you would like them to use with you. Try and use “I” statements. For example ‘I feel annoyed when you slam the door and hurt your sister’. This is more effective than using “You” statements like ‘You make me so mad’, which lead to defensiveness.
What else is going on?
Teenagers are still developing emotionally and need your help to become emotionally mature. Anger is often the emotion they present with but is often not the real emotion they are actually feeling. That is because anger does not leave them feeling vulnerable. Supporting them through this not only shows you care, but it also helps the teen to become more emotionally literate.
When your teenage starts to speak, ask yourself ‘am I really listening?’ Once they have finished speaking, ask them if it’s okay for you to make a suggestion or give an opinion. You will be surprised how much better a teenager will react to your advice if you first ask their permission.
Make a concerted effort to ‘catch your teenager being good’ and praise them. This may be difficult to do when you are feeling frustrated with other behaviours but it does work over time.
Like every new skill these strategies will take practice. You will likely get them wrong at times, but you can always try again. It is one hundred per cent okay to go back to your teenager after you make an error in judgment, admit you could have handled the situation better, and that you will try harder the next time.
Provided by Alan Quinn/Margaret Mastriani
Alan Quinn is the Mentoring Co-Ordinator with Le Chéile Mentoring and Youth Justice Support Services in Limerick. Le Chéile work with Young Person Probation service users and their families. As well as the core mentoring work Le Chéile run a range of parenting programmes and family support interventions.www.lecheile.ie.