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How to Communicate with a Teenager

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by Nicole Arathoon (subscribe)
I'm a Sydney freelance writer, eternal optimist and happy vegetarian. Check out my blog at
Published May 24th 2013
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Most people would respond to this statement with.. don't. Don't talk to a teenager because your general reply will be a grunt with no eye contact and a quick exit into their bedroom to put their earplugs in and disappear into their world of music or gaming. If this sounds familiar then keep reading.

As an educator of difficult teenagers in an alternative school setting, we spend each day communicating with teenagers. Somedays the communication is effective and on other days, well, it depends on the teenager's mood on that particular day.

But we have found five effective tools to assist with talking to your beautiful teenage boy or girl are;

1. Be calm at all times. Even when it feels like your head is going to explode with frustration. Take a deep breath, walk away and then re-engage when you are calmer. A teenager is fantastic at pushing your buttons. They have known you for more than ten years and have worked out what behaviours will get a reaction from you. Don't give them what they expect. Be calm.

2. Be fair and use the statement "I want to be fair". Teenagers are all about what is fair and what isn't. In their world they are always the victim and you are the perpetrator of the unfair rules and laws. If you need to enforce a consequence be sure that it matches the crime. Otherwise you will hear about it. Depending on your teenager, you may be able to negotiate the consequence. Ask them what they think is fair.

3. Be respectful of their growth and change. They are no longer your little baby. Give them reasonable responsibilities and allow them some freedom. Trust them until they prove you wrong. Give them some slack to grow with. A little at a time of course but be sure to let them know you trust them. I am a strong believer that if you respect your teenager, they will grow up respecting you.

4. Be firm and instil boundaries at all times. If it feels right to you, never back down. Say "No" at times. If there are clear boundaries in place your teenager will of course attempt to push them and get away with plenty but your boundaries and rules are important for their growth. Boundaries are a reflection of society and what is expected in the workforce. If they have boundaries at home then their transition into the big wide world will be easier for them.

5. Be a good role model yourself. If you have expectations of your teenager then epitomise it yourself, as your teenager will always have expectations of you too. If you want your teenager to clean up their room, then you need to have a clean room too. Your teenager is clever. They have no qualms telling you when you are not correct. Be one step ahead of them and be sure to be doing what you are asking of them.

Teenagers can be tough but also loveable. Keep in mind they are simply young adults and if you treat them as such then ideally your relationship with them will grow and develop. They need you to be an adult and guide them. Enjoy their growth and the wonderful relationship you can have with them.
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Your Comment
Thankyou Nicole, What a wonderful article.
All these sugestions mentioned are all true and correct.
My wife and I have followed the above rules for the whole life of our son. (I am lucky to have been a long term househusband since his birth) We have taught him to have respect for others and we in turn have always been respectful of his growth and change. Right from an early age we have always given him age appropriate responsibilities and have given him some freedom with strict boundaries for his safety. The spin off is he has actually enjoyed this trust knowing that he has always been a valuable person that is contributing in his own way. We started slowly at first and we always let him know that we trust him, we do not to punish him for honest mistakes, we all make them even as adults. We ask him for advice which also increases his confidence in making decisions and he comes to us for advice. He is a teenager wishing to make his own decisions and wishing to stamp out his own place in his world. He has grown into a loving and nurturing person. He makes comments about the other disruptive and disrespective kids in his class and when we go out about how other teenagers have no respect for other people or their property. He cares obut his actions. Over the past few years our family has gone through some tough times due to debilitating illness. Our son can tell when either parent is struggling and he automatically steps up and drops his electronic gadgetry and helps out or he starts and completes tasks without request he just seems to know what is needed and he quietly and proudly does it. He pushes buttons when he knows he can but he also knows when to stop. He sees us as friends as well as his parents and he is not afraid to include us in his social life or when his mates come over. His friends notice this and their behavior now changes around us, they too now realise that not all parents are their enemies, they know we are approachable, trusting, caring and we give them privacy while protecting them. As you can tell we are proud parents and we wouldn't change a thing and consequently we enjoy an excellent relationship with this young adult.
by samir (score: 2|126) 2024 days ago
Just in case if you find some useful tips ...
by divya (score: 0|2) 2024 days ago
Okay, I'm a teenager. I understand we can be difficult at times, but this article treats us like animals. I mean, sit, roll over and give them a treat at the end. Don't get me wrong, I love your writing. But sometimes, we wan't to feel like we're being treated like humans. Equals even. Some of us have ideas, we just have a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that force us to hate everyone and everything we come across. Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm just communicating my feelings. Keep writing!
by smiley_faces (score: 0|2) 2016 days ago
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