5 Things You Should Never Say to Your Teen

Avoid saying these things to your teen.
Nancy Ney / Photodisc / Getty Images

Your words have a big impact on your teen’s emotions, self-esteem, and behavior. It’s important to choose your words wisely - especially when you’re feeling frustrated or upset. Saying hurtful, unhelpful, or disrespectful things to your teen - regardless of your intention - can seriously damage your relationship.

No matter what situation you find yourself in, here are five things you should never say to your teen:

1. “When I was Your Age…”

While explaining what the world was like before the Internet and smartphones can be eye opening to today’s teens, don’t think your hardship will motivate your teen to change. Whether you walked uphill to school barefoot, or you began working at a summer job at age 15, you’re stories are likely to be met with an eye roll.

The world has changed a lot in the past few decades. Drawing comparisons to your own childhood isn’t exactly comparing apples to apples. So skip the motivational lectures where you think you look like a childhood hero - your teen will just think you lived in pre-historic times.  

2. “Quit Worrying”

Whether your teen is worried about her hair for the dance, or she’s really stressed about taking her driver’s exam, telling her to stop worrying won’t help. Saying things like, “Don’t overreact,” or “It’s not a big deal,” will only send the message that her feelings are wrong.

Rather than minimize how she’s feeling, validate your teen’s emotions. Even if you don’t understand why your teen is feeling a certain way, make it clear that her feelings are OK. Engage in active-problem solving together or help her identify coping strategies to deal with her uncomfortable emotions.

3. “It’s Just a Phase”

As teens grow and mature, they often test out different identities. But that doesn’t mean you should assume your teen’s sexual preference or depressed demeanor is “just a phase.” Doing so could be very damaging to her mental health and your ongoing relationship.

Similarly, you shouldn’t excuse your teen’s poor choices or bad behavior by saying, “It’s just a phase.” Research shows disrespectful teens grow up to be disrespectful adults. Support your teen’s search for independence, while also correcting problematic behavior and teaching healthier skills.

4. “That’ll Never Work”

Whether your teen says, “I am going to be an astronaut someday,” or she claims her new dog walking business is going to fund her Ivy League education, dismissing her ideas isn’t a good idea. When you say, “That’ll never work,” your teen hears, “Challenge accepted.” She may continue with her efforts to reach her goals without seeking your guidance.

So rather than shoot down your teen’s ambitious ideas or outrageous schemes, show curiosity.

Say things like, “Tell me about your plan.” Point out potential problems or concerns without completely brushing off your teen’s ideas.

5. “Because I Said So!”

Telling your teen she can’t do something without giving her the underlying reason why isn’t helpful. You won’t always be there to tell her what to do so it’s important for her to learn how to recognize potential problems, safety concerns, and risks. Help your teen learn how to make healthy decisions by explaining the reasons for your answers.

Say something like, “I don’t want you driving that late because you could fall asleep behind the wheel and there’s more likely to be drunk drivers on the road.” When she understands your reasoning, she’ll be less likely to rebel. 

Continue Reading