1. Listen to what is being said and why; that is, try to understand the teenager’s feelings and where she is coming from. Rather than thinking about arguments or retaliations, listen to her/him.
2. Stop what you are doing and look at the teenager. Listen when they speak to you. Be sure that you are giving them the proper attention and that they are not talking to a newspaper or to your back.
3. Positive Communication. Be sure most of your communication is positive, not negative. Don’t dwell on mistakes, failures, misbehaviors, or something they forgot to do. Give them positive communication and talk about their successes, accomplishments, interests, and appropriate behavior.
4. Talk to them (positively) about their interests (e.g., music, sports, computers, dance-team practice, cars, and motorcycles). Talk to them just to talk and to have positive verbal interaction.
5. Stop and let them talk – giving long or too-detailed explanations, repeating lectures, questioning excessively, or using other forms of communication that will result in the teenager turning a deaf ear to you.
6. Try to understand the teen’s feelings. You do not have to agree or disagree with him; just make him aware that you understand how he feels. Do not try to explain away his emotions. There are times when you do not have to fix things or make the youngster feel better.
7. Do not overreact to what is said. Remember, sometimes teenagers say things that are designed to get a reaction from their parents. In addition, do not say “no” too fast. Sometimes it is better to think about the request and give a response later. In other words, think before you open your mouth.
8. Try to create situations in which communication can occur (driving your teen to the doctor’s appointment, having the teenager help you with household tasks). You have to be physically close to the teenager for communication to occur. A television, computer or video games in the teen’s room can be an additional barrier to family communication. Whenever possible, the parent should try to do things with the teenager, rather than separately. Although the teen may not frequently accept them, provide opportunities for him/her to do things with you.
9. Try to avoid power struggles, confrontation, and arguing matches. Your goal should be to have the communication move toward a compromise situation, rather than a battle. When appropriate, involve the teenager in decision making and setting consequences for his or her behavior.
Dr. Greg Allen, LMFT is a therapist practicing in Palos Verdes Estates & Hermosa Beach. He is also the founder and Director of Freedom4U (freedomcommunity.com). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (www.drgregallen.com). FamilyEducation.com contributed to this column.