How to Develop Positive Patterns of Communication with Your Teen

Create positive patterns of communication with your teen.
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Every family develops certain patterns of communication with one another. The verbal and non-verbal habits you use to express yourselves are likely fairly similar day after day. Often, it's easy to get stuck in unhealthy patterns of communication, especially when you're raising a teenager. 

Some parents can't get their teen to talk to them. Other parents end up bickering with their teen over the smallest things.

And some parents get into yelling matches on a regular basis with their teen.

Examine your communication patterns and consider these strategies that could help improve your efforts to communicate with your teen:

1. Avoid Asking Too Many Questions

One pattern of communication that can be quite problematic is when parents ask too many questions. If you ask, “How was your day?” and the only response you receive is, “Fine,” you may be tempted to ask more questions - at least at first. Eventually, you may give up trying to get your teen to talk. 

Rather than ask more questions - which can feel like an interrogation to your teen - give your teen more space. Greet your teen after school but don't insist he tell you all about his day. Instead, talk about your day and see if he volunteers any information about his.

2. Don’t Nag 

Sometimes parents feel the need to nag teens about homework, chores, or other daily tasks.

Bu nagging will only set you up for failure. It can lead to your child becoming increasingly resistant or argumentative. It also prevents your child from taking responsibility for his own behavior.

If you are caught in a pattern of nagging your teen to do everything, take a step back. Establish rules and give your child consequences, but don’t keep giving your teen constant reminders.

Follow through with a consequence if he doesn’t do what he’s supposed to.

3. Stop Lecturing Your Teen

The whole premise of a lecture is, “I’m going to talk and you’re going to listen.” However, most teens will tune you out pretty early on. Since it doesn’t invite them to speak, lectures don't tend to lead to effective communication.

Long lectures usually aren’t effective ways to change  a teen's behavior. Holding an open and honest conversation much healthier. If you’re guilty of giving long lectures, use a problem-solving approach with your teen. 

4. Refuse to Argue with Your Teen

Arguing is a negative communication pattern that many parents feel stuck in. Teens are often argumentative by nature. Arguing back simply adds fuel to the fire.

If you’re caught in a pattern where you argue a lot with your teen, try doing something different. Don’t insist on getting the last word in. Instead, be firm and follow through with consequences when necessary.

You can’t force your teen to do anything. You can however, control how you react to your teen.

Commit to remaining calm, even when your teen argues. Changing the way you react may change the way your teen behaves.

5. Validate Your Teen's Feelings

Most teens really want to feel heard. Yet, many parents mistakenly jump in and offer advice, or minimize a teen's feelings. You can assure your teen that you're listening by using reflective listening skills.

Rather than respond to what your teen says, reflect back what you hear first. Say something like, "So what I hear you saying is, you think you shouldn't have to do your homework tonight because you think it's unfair your teacher gave you so much work to do?" Clarify your teen's point of view before you share your opinion.

Then, validate your teen's feelings, even if you don't understand. Use feeling words like, "It sounds like you're feeling really frustrated," or, "I understand you're nervous about that test." 

Many communication patterns can be changed just by improving your listening skills. Show your teen you really want to hear what he has to say and make it clear that you value his opinions, even if you don't agree with them. 

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