Every parent hopes for a great relationship and open communication with their child during teenage years. It’s easy, however, for us parents to inadvertently discourage that by continuing to speak to them as we did when they were younger and needed more cut and dried direction. As the child moves through the teenage years, our challenge is to move away from control to coaching. If a parent defaults into a more directive, one-way conversation mode, there’s either going to be an argument or the teenager will clam up, get bitter and/or rebel.
Here’s a solution that worked wonders in our home. Give your teen permission to speak freely. You’re probably familiar with that phrase in a military context. Same concept. You preserve respect for authority yet allow a person to be able to express their point of view and even objection in a constructive manner.
It works like this. Explain to your teen that you’re aware you need to shift gears in dealing with them yet you run the risk of falling back into being very cut and dried. Let them know that if they think that’s happening, you are now giving them the privilege of asking for permission to speak freely. You agree to then allow them to discuss further, present their case, make an appeal, whatever. They must agree to two things: to speak calmly and with respect. No raising their voice, throwing fits, making faces, etc. If they do, conversation over.
You as the parent still have the right to make whatever decision you feel is best after full discussion. Just make sure you use these occasions – particularly early on – as opportunities to flex where you can and strengthen the relationship for the future.
This is good stuff. Give it a shot and expect that ongoing open line of communication.