How to communicate with your teenage daughter
Tricks and Tips to communicate effectively with Your Teenage Daughter
The dynamics of parenting are constantly changing, and there are few transitions more painful than when your little girl becomes a teenager. It seems to happen overnight. She shuts herself in her room or walks around with earbuds and headphones, essentially shutting you out of her world. Family vacations are suddenly a bore rather than fun times together. She wants to do things that you’re not prepared for her to do.
Even if you have worked hard in years past to develop strong lines of communication and have told her since she was little that she can come to you with any problem, tension is on the menu once the teenage years arrive. The following tips will help you communicate with your teenage daughter with as little friction and drama as possible.
Give Her a Voice
If there is one complaint that all teenagers will have against their parents at some point in time, it’s that they don’t understand what it’s like to be a teenager. While they acknowledge that you were once their age, they reason that times are much different now and you cannot possibly understand the circumstances of their life.
You can stop this by allowing her to use her voice and sending messages that she has the right to form her own opinions and speak up for herself, even if you don’t always agree with her perspectives. This starts by having routine conversations about her life. Take the time to ask how her day went or take her out for walks or to the movies so that there is time for natural conversation. Listen as she speaks and respond with thoughtful questions and answers, showing that you’re interested in her viewpoints.
During times of conflict, your daughter is more likely to hear what you have to say and respond in a mature manner if she believes that you understand her point of view. Follow this pattern of communication to give her a voice in these situations without losing your power as the parent:
- Allow her to speak while you remain silent, giving her your full attention. Explain that you want to hear her side of the situation, and you will listen carefully as long as she remains respectful. Don’t formulate your response while she’s talking. Don’t check your cell phone if a notification dings. Don’t interrupt if you disagree with something that she says.
- Tell her that you understand her perspective, repeating what you heard her say. For instance, you may say, “I understand that all of your friends are going to this party and that your friends may stop hanging out with you if you don’t at least make an appearance.” This is a validation strategy that tells her that you were really listening and have considered her argument.
- Explain your point of view, asking her to show you the same respect by listening without distractions.
- Offer to brainstorm with her to come up with a solution to which you can both agree. This shows that you’re going to stand your ground, but you’re open to a compromise if one is available.
You may still need to put your foot down and do what is best for your daughter, but the situation will go smoother if she feels that you at least heard and considered her perspective. Teenagers are more likely to lash out or shut their parents out completely if they feel that they have no voice or their perspective doesn’t matter.
Banish the Buts
After you’ve heard your daughter speak her mind respectfully, it’s easy to explain that you understand her points “but…”. Most people say this automatically when they don’t agree with another person’s perspective, but that three-letter word is the key to shutting a teenager down in one second. All she will hear are the words that come after the “but,” and those are the words of disagreement.
Consciously focus on not saying that word when communicating with your daughter in difficult times. You want it to sound like you understand what she said, and now you’re going to present your own perspective and open it for discussion. This allows her to keep her power and dignity while accepting that there is another way to look at the situation.
Here is what you may naturally say if unfiltered:
I understand that you’re tired from softball practice and you don’t want to study for the test, but your average is already low and you can’t afford another failing grade.”
What you want to say is something more like this:
“I understand that softball practice is making you tired, and it’s difficult to study when you come home. We will start studying together on the weekends so that you don’t have as much to do during the week. For now, let me quiz you before bed. We need to salvage your grade at least a little.”
In this situation, your teenage daughter may only see two options. She can go to bed, or she can stay up and cram for the test. When you introduce an alternative option and offer to help her through the situation, you give her a new way to think about the problem without giving in to her demands. You can apply this to virtually any problem that your teenager may encounter in life.
Rename the Problem
In the book “Awaken the Giant Within” by Tony Robbins, the concept of “transformational vocabulary” is introduced. The idea is that you can change the way that you and others feel about a situation simply by changing the words that you use to describe the emotions behind the situation. Words have power, and you can keep the peace with your daughter in many situations just by renaming the problem.
For instance, when your daughter is disrespectful in tone and isn’t listening to anything that you say, respond with something like, “We’re temporarily disconnected. Let’s try this again later.” You could return her disrespectful tone or raise your voice, telling her exactly what you think about her attitude, but that will only make the situation worse. When you rename the problem as a “temporary disconnect,” you take the steam out of the encounter. You can then give her some time to think about the issue before you approach the conversation again, clearly expecting a different tone.
Apply some creative thinking, and you will come up with a new name for virtually any negative word that could lead to a disruptive encounter with your teen. You can also use this to encourage an optimistic point of view in your household. For instance, Tony Robbins recommends saying that you’re “on the road to a turn-around” rather than saying that you’re depressed.
If you remain open to hearing your daughter and responding in a respectful manner no matter what situation arises, you’ll have many opportunities to employ the transformational vocabulary trick. Some of your new words should also change your own thought processes so that you approach life with a teenager with a more positive mindset.