Talking to Your Teen

Saying “No” to a teenager is not always easy, but saying it certain ways can make it easier, said Marriage and Family Therapist Annie Drake.

One of the best ways to say no, said Drake, is to say, “We love you too much to let you do that. After you say that, they will bug you to stop loving them.” Another way, she said, is to say, “No, not now. Don’t say when – just say, ‘We’ll think about it.’ They are going to hear that love a lot when you say no that way.”

It is up to parents to set limits, she said, because “the world isn’t going to put the limits on them.”

Using an example of a girl trying to wear a too-short skirt to school, Drake said, “They are not going to just test you once. They want you to be strong, be resilient. They are testing – Are you tough? Do you mean it? You develop strength and character in your kids by
standing up for what you believe in.”

She said, “It is harder for our kids today than when all of us went to school – with peer pressure and a really sophisticated peer group. You take all of this pressure, and it really just blows them away. That world is really sophisticated, and it says, ‘Grow up fast.'”

Drake, author of “Help me âÂ?¦ I Have a Teenager,” said when dealing with “hot topics – telling them no, setting limits,” parents should not have conversations with their teen at home or in the car but rather in public. “Take them out to eat. They’ll be so much cooler when you’re out of the house. They just think everybody is watching them.”

When confronted with a tough topic with your teenager, Drake reminded parents, “Human animals do not respond to negative, and adolescents are human animals. We really want to look for the positive. They like it pretty light – they don’t like the lecture series.”

Because of that, she created the “No Lecture Method” of getting through to teens.

“When you start to ask your kids questions about all the lectures you have given them over all the years, they will actually lecture themselves. Kids love to be experts. If you just start asking questions, you are going to get awesome answers.”

The conversation could proceed like this: “Ask a question. Wait for a teenage response. This could be a grunt, an eye roll or a moan. Go on to the next question.” Parents should continue this process until the teenager brings herself or himself to the right conclusion.
“The teenager lectured himself.”

However, she said, “If you say, ‘I told you so,’ you will undo everything good that you have done.”

A good way to broach difficult situations your teen might encounter without lecturing is to ask them how someone a little older than them should handle a situation. “Ask your kids about that. That is real life stuff.”

When having a discussion with your teenager, resist the urge to allow interruptions on either side. She suggested using a three-minute timer. “Relax. Let your kid talk it out. You will be able to have a civilized conversation.”

She also stressed the difference between hearing your teen and listening to your teen. “You need your eyes and ears if you are listening.”

If you are not able to give your teen your complete attention, set a time that day when you can. “You can time delay a teenager. They really appreciate this.”

And, “If you or your kids are in a high emotional climate, do not talk. Wait until the teen gets to a lower level” or “get control” over your own emotions. “Go take a five or ten minute brisk walk around the block.”

Always, “If your kids are brave enough to come tell you the truth, you must say, ‘Thank you for telling me that. You are so brave.’ When your kids are brave enough to tell you something first, you must reward the truth, or they will not come back. When you guys start opening up this dialog, you are in the know.”

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