At the beginning, children can't have enough of their parents. They hang on every word you say and think you are a superhero of some sort. While you would expect that bond to grow even tighter as they grow older, that is not always the case. By the time they are in their teenage years, their attention and adoration shifts to other things such as their friends and their devices. They will listen to just about anyone but you, give you an eyeroll when you give them instructions, turn their music up while in the middle of a conversation with you, or just say ‘whatever’ as they walk away from you. The once cuddly and warm hugs and kisses disappear and in comes a cold stare and more often than not, no eye contact at all. While this is not an unusual part of growing up, it can be challenging to communicate effectively with your teens. Feigning indifference, pretending not to hear and tuning off parents is typical among teenagers. Hence, as parents, it is important to understand why it happens and learn how to get through to your child.
Here are 7 proven approaches to getting your teen to listen to you:
1. Understand the phase they are in
At this stage teenagers want to feel powerful and in control. There is nothing much to make them feel powerful other than being in control of where to direct their attention. Ignoring parents and choosing to focus their attention on other things gives the child a sense of power. Drawing their parents into an argument makes them feel in control. Once you understand this, then you know you must not engage in a power battle with your teenager. The harder you try to get them to stop, the harder they will try to resists. Hence, it is more productive to use other methods to get through to them.
2. Act as if they are listening
Realise that your child can still hear you even if they are pretending not to pay attention. As long as your child does not have a hearing disorder or has not plugged their ears, carry on with your communication as if the child was paying attention to you. Speak clearly and calmly and in a language that your child understands. Communicate your expectations and state clearly the consequences of not following them.
3. Stick to your words
If your child does exactly what you told them not to do and claims they did not hear you, do not attempt to argue. State calmly that they are aware of the rules and the consequences of not following them, and walk away. Avoid getting into an argument about whether they heard or not. Your child will usually use this to divert your attention to the argument and avoid the consequences. Another trick is to always let them know that even if they have to suffer the consequences of not following the rules, they still have a chance to try do the right thing next time.
4. Have the inattention talk
If you find that your child keeps feigning that they do not hear you, then it is time to have the inattention talk. Remember, your aim is to have a well-behaved child and not to have a fight with your child or hurt their feelings. Hence, do your best to remain as objective as possible. Avoid using an accusatory tone which will likely get your child in a defensive mode which could mean that your child puts more effort in defending themselves other than listening to what you have to say. For better results, just point out how to achieve what you need them to achieve, which in this case is to become better listeners. For instance, you could say “maintaining eye contact, asking questions and seeking clarifications when things are not clear enough is a great way to ensure you do not miss anything.”
5. Control your emotions
Your child knows that rolling their eyes as you talk, whistling, or having a bad attitude is irritating and annoying to you. In fact, they do it just so that they can annoy you and get into a power and control struggle with you. It is important to avoid anger and other emotions as you communicate because this automatically makes your child feel like they have won and fuels their negative energy. Remaining calm and being clear , concise and consistent is key to making this teenage phase a success.
6. Remember, it is not personal
No matter how annoying your child gets, do not allow yourself to get sucked into it. It is not personal and your child is not your business rival. It is not a competition either. Your child is growing up and if the two of you handle it well, your child will learn so much from this phase that could see them grow-up to be fine mature adults that can control their emotions, manage conflicts effectively, and many other benefits.
7. Seek help
In most cases, this phase passes by without major incidents and your child grows into a fine mature adult. In some rare cases, teens can greatly overstep their boundaries causing issues such as putting their lives and others in danger. If you feel you are getting to that point with your teen, seek help from a specialist, teachers, relatives, or a responsible member of your community.
These tips should help you and your teen get along just fine. Remember, this is just a phase; being consistent, keeping calm and avoiding to engage in a power battle are key to a great relationship with your teen.