3 Things You Probably Shouldn’t Say to a Teenager
There is too much pressure on parents or those raising teenagers to say the right thing at the exact right moment and always get it right. Perfect doesn’t exist when it comes to what we say to your teenager but in general here are some things that will create a distance between you.
1. It’s Just a Phase and you will grow out of it
It’s Not Just A Phase
It’s one of the most important phases of a human’s life as they transition from child to adult. And very often we just wait for this phase to pass like a thunderstorm rather than use it to learn vital skills for life. Many of the experiences teenagers go through will re-occur throughout their life. Losing friends, losing loved ones, meeting hard times, falling in love, falling out of love, all these things are easier when we have a sense of who we are and how we navigate difficult times. That’s why I have packed the Teenager’s Book of Life with how to deal with these issues during this phase so that they are more adept as to how to do it when they pop up again in life as adults.
Be real with them
Connection creates co-operation. So how do you connect with your young one. Your young person will connect with what is real. So you will need to be real with them. What does that look like. When they come to you with an issue or if you detect they may be going through something difficult, think about the pain you have experienced because you didn’t know what you do now, the times life knocked you for six and you just about got up. Think about how you felt during those times. Really re-visit the emotional territory related to those hard times. Now if you can talk to your teenager from that place about what you want them to do X, Y, Z and you can connect with the vulnerability of that experience I can guarantee you they will hear you. The level to which we adults are comfortable with ourselves, in our own skins is the degree to which teenagers and young people will connect with us.
2. ‘In my day’… finish the sentence.
It’s not your day. And while there are many similarities between what it was like to be a teenager when you were younger and what it is like for your teenager today there are monumental differences in the contexts. So if you want to keep the lines of connection open then before you tell them what it was like when you were a teenager, stop for a moment and ask them what is it like being them? And then when they have told you you can share how it “felt” when you were a teenager. How you felt frustrated at times by your parents and perhaps even had your heart broken or how it felt when you fell in love for the first time. If you tell them more about what it felt like ‘in your day’ then you will be able to connect on that ground. And connection creates cooperation.
I wish you would be more…
Ok this one you probably would never say out loud but many of us have inner commentaries that somehow sneak out from time to time. I often meet parents who say that they wish their teenager was more like this or more like that. That is ok, until it slides into judging that our teenager and silently hoping they could be someone they are never going to be. This one is sneaky because we usually don’t realise we are even judging them with our silent wishes that they would be more this or more that. So it is worthwhile reading on you ever find yourself silently wishing you could send your teenager for a personality transplant….
Do you accept them as they are? What are your judgements of them – watch out they have a radar for this:. They crave acceptance. So accept them as they are – imperfect just like you and I are – a work in progress.
Teenagers have an inbuilt heat seeking missile like radar for being judged. Because the stage they are at with moving from child to adult and they are in that in-between place where they have not yet formed their own sense of who they are and so are discovering who they are and that means they are not on solid ground. This means that they simultaneously want people to notice them and also don’t want to stand out too much in case they are judged. They fear judgement from the world more than probably anything at that stage. And because they are aware that judgement is rife at school they have a radar for it. So for the parent when they understand that whether they verbally judge their teenager or not they teenager knows it when they are so the parent has to do some work here and that is they must tune in to whether they do in fact judge their teenager and if so about what. So, how they can do this is to get two pieces of paper. On one piece describe their teenager – everything they can think of to describe them. Whether that be what you noticed as a child and what is still relevant. Just put it all down there. You know this can range from sporty to introverted to fun to whatever. Who is your child?. Do you know? Has it been a while since you thought about that?
Then on the other piece write down all the ways you think they should be or would like them to be. What would you like to change about them? Again just put down as much as you can. Now compare them. Is there a gap between who your young person is and who you think they could be or should be? If so you are probably judging them and they know it! So it’s just about being aware of where you may have an idealised picture of where you want them to be and that picture may not be who they will ever be. I am not saying you don’t wish for your child to fulfill their potential but what I am saying is you need to accept them as they are. As the person they are and trust them to find their way. More of that later.
When you accept them as they are not as you think they should be, you now help them discover more of who they can be?
3. Why are you spending so much time with your friends, what’s wrong with us?
There’s nothing wrong with you…
Friends are everything to the teenager. It’s their safe zone even though they know their family keep them safe too. Its the pack who understand them most, don’t get on their nerves as much and who they relate to most for obvious reasons. Rest assured if something happens with your teen and one of their friends, you will be the first person they come to
Teenagers are wiser than you realise and you just might not see it.
The way I Iearned that teenagers are wiser than I realised is because I listened to thousands of them talk in ways they say they would never do to their families because they are afraid of being judged. So trust the fact that they can find their way. That they are wiser than they might come across. You just tell them that you are here for them if they need you and that you will have their back. That is enough. That is a big leap for many parents listening to this because they under-estimate their teenager but if they can they will be surprised at what happens. Remember, you are the sides of the pinball machine – there when they stray too far off course, a safe harbour for them when they really need it or when they are going down the wrong road and you know you have got to step in. But most of the time let them find their own way.