It’s 10 PM. You are exhausted. You want to go to sleep because you have a big day tomorrow- back-to-back meetings and a presentation at noon. Ding! A text message comes in on your phone- it is your daughter. She texts “Can you wake me up at 5:30 tomorrow morning? I have a science final that I need to study for.”
“Hang on”, you text back-.”Why are you waiting to the last minute to study for this test?”
Silence. You go to your daughter’s room and open the door to because you want to actually talk to her in person.
“Why are you in here?”, she asks, looking confused.
She is on the computer, sending a message to someone on Facebook. Her room has clothes and books scattered about.
Answer A: “Hey Sweetie- I just wanted to chat about your requests and see if I can help you get a bit more organized.”
Answer B: “Why do you want me to wake you up early? And why are you still on Facebook? And this room is a mess- no wonder you can’t get anything done! Why don’t you want to talk to me?”
Which is the correct answer? You may really feel like voting for B… but in your heart, you know it is A. Every once in a while I hear my mind telling me to say to my child what was said to me as a child, even though those words made me feel awful.
Not that my parents were being deliberately confrontational- they were doing the best they could under the circumstances. But we know we can do better.
How? How do you communicate with your teen when they are driving you nuts? Here are some tools that can help you help your kids and yes, even get them to talk to you about difficult circumstances.
1) Develop a script ahead of time. If you know you might be tempted to burst into their room and start criticizing, try to think of phrases you can use “in the heat of the moment”.
2) Take a deep breath- and a break- before engaging. We tell our kids to “count to 10”, but we can use that advice too!
3) Don’t yell.
4) Listen to their side. If you are thinking “stop making excuses!” before they open their mouth, whatever they say will be taken as an excuse… whether it is or not.
5) Consider other options besides “No”. Can you compromise?
6) Make sure you get support in dealing with your frustration- from a friend, family member, or partner.
7) Forgive yourself if you “oops”. Nobody is ever calm, rational, and loving 100% of the time!
8) Remember how much you truly love them.
9) Make a plan to talk together over fun times- not just when you both are upset. If you lay down pathways for discussion and communication while you are both having fun, it’s easier to drive down that road when things are heated.
Some good resources- which I used this post- are “Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager”, by Anthony E. Wolf Ph.D., “Getting to Calm: Cool-Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens & Teens”, by Laura S. Kastner Ph.D. and Jennifer Wyatt.