Hey, folks. Katie here. Last year, my mom and I came to the realization that not all parents/children have the close relationship that my mom and I manage to have. Today, I realized that the post the two of us wrote last year on how to get your teenage child to talk to you was, well, fairly outdated. So, after much consideration, here is the updated list.
- Do not, I repeat, DO NOT ask how their day at school was.
This is uncomfortable on so many levels, especially if you aren’t particularly close with them at that moment. Asking how someone’s day at school was is like saying, “Hey! I’m your [Mom/Dad/Guardian]! I’m trying SO hard to talk to you! Ha ha! Talk to me! Hey! Kid! Talk to me! I SAID TALK TO ME! ABOUT ANYTHING! DESPERATION!” Asking how their day was at school will probably result in a “Fine.” Then your child will shut themselves in their room forever and turn on horrible teenager music.
(So maybe I exaggerated a bit. I’m a teenager. Don’t blame me.)
INSTEAD ask about specifics. Pay attention to them, and then when they get home, ask if the math test was hard. Ask how gross the school lunch was that day. Ask how their friends are, and refer to them by their names. It shows you actually care and pay attention to them, without making you look desperate to talk to them.
- Respect and accept them. Always.
If they’re going through a goth phase, tell them they look nice. When they’re playing absolutely horrible music that you cannot stand, don’t yell at them to turn it down. (If it’s really too loud, tell them politely.) And most of all, if they voice an opinion to you that you disagree with, DO NOT shut them down. Listen. Always listen to their opinion and tell them that you respect it. Even if you strongly disagree, don’t shut them down. (Unless of course, they say that they believe that smearing mayonnaise on their peers is always the answer. That’s just unsettling.)
- Don’t talk down to them.
Saying “You cutie” or “AWWWWWWWWW!” To your kids is just inappropriate and makes them feel less than you. Even if, frankly, they are because you are their parent/guardian, you should make them feel like an equal. My mom makes sure to talk to me like an actual human rather than a baby. Though I know she 100% CAN tell me what to do and is older and wiser than me, she doesn’t make me feel like that when we’re talking.
- Talk to them about their interests, and make them your interests, too.
I believe I talked about this one in the last post, but I feel the need to say it again. My mom took my love of Harry Potter (which I will not get into for fear of the post getting too long) and made it hers as well. She watched all of the movies with me, she went to see the play “Potted Potter” with me, which was hilarious, and she took me to Hogsmeade village in Orlando, Florida. She made a Pottermore account and was sorted into Hufflepuff. (I am a Gryffindor with a lot of Gryffindor pride.) She gave me Harry Potter merchandise for my past few birthdays and Christmases. That’s definitely brought us closer. Now, your teenager might not be into Harry Potter, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find an interest of theirs that you can share.
- Be there for them.
Show up. For every performance, sports game, achievement, loss. Always be there if you can.
- Don’t be mean.
This one goes without saying.
This list could go on for days, but I’m going to end it with one last tip.
- Tell them you love them.
Great advice and great post, my brilliant granddaughter. You have seriously always been wise beyond your years❤️.
I love you,
This is awesome thank you Katie! I do most of these things,but thank you for all the great idea’s I’ll be using them. My daughter Kalyssa likes a lot of alone time and it’s really hard trying to get her to let me in. I think your great advice will come in handy! Thank you again! 🙂
Thank you, Katie. I have four kids, and agree with you.i think it boils down to love and respect, even when the other person isn’t feeling or acting with love or respect. Sometimes life with a teen feels like we’re riding whitewater rapids together. Crazy, scary, exciting, fun…as long as were all in the boat together at the end, it’s a success.
This is so great for parents to read.
You’re cool, Katie. Thanks!
Thanks Katie! I don’t have teenagers yet, although I feel my 7 year old daugher is going on 15, but I will keep all this great advice in mind. I actually think most if not all pertains to kids of all ages. We haven’t met but you seem like a great kid. Keep up the great work, you too mom! 🙂
Thank you so much.
I am not a parent myself, but I am an Aunt who can also use this advice. (I want to be the fun Aunt, not the annoying one.)
I also work with a lot of families that have teenagers, I think it would benefit them all to read your wise words. Would you mind if I shared? Giving all credit to you of course.
I won’t share unless I have your permission.
Katie, thank you for being the kind of person this world so desperately needs more of.
You give so many people hope by simply being YOU.
Thank you for sharing this! I have young girls and I worry about laying the proper foundation so that we can make it through the teen years still loving one another as we do today. You are such a wise young lady.
Very well written, Katie! You have your mother’s gift for expression! My daughter is 14, and I try to,do all the things you’ve said. Her room has become her ‘cave’ and some days I only see her when she ventures out for food! I understand her need for distance, but wish for a closer relationship. There are some things we do together, and I just hope that in time we can build upon those. Thank you for your insight! ~~ Caprice Vreeland
Being autistic I thought that asking “How was your day?” was what you were supposed to do and I used to give myself a hard time for forgetting to ask. Lucky my kids aren’t teenagers yet. Maybe I should rely more on my instinct then on what you are supposed to do lol
Okay, there was serious genius in that post. Like you have been in my parent head. And I am breaking a few of those rules! Thanks so much. I wanted and needed to know this.
Well written, and some great practical tips here for us parents (and adults with sulky teenagers in our lives). My dad would always get the “fine” answer when he asked about school, so he said we had to come up with ANY other word to describe our day. That actually made for a fun car ride home as we tried to pick the ONE WORD to encapsulate our day. He was (and still is) someone that I can ask any question, tell any thought, and he will listen and process with me. I’m so grateful to have parents who aren’t just physically close, but emotionally too.
This post is going to prompt so many conversations, I just know it! Thank you!
I cannot emphasize Katie’s emphasis on respect and not being mean to your teen enough. You wouldn’t respond nicely or with differential respect to someone condescending or belittling you, would you? If not, how can you expect it of your kid?
You wouldn’t react well to someone who didn’t hear out your situation jumping in with useless or already-tried “advice” or “suggestions” for the situation, regardless of how applicable or practical they are, right? And you’d be especially annoyed if they got annoyed or acted as if you were in the wrong when you pointed out that their suggestions either wouldn’t work or were already tried, right? Why do you expect your teen to be grateful for what they know is bad advice after they’ve been talked over and disrespected?
I could go on, but in short: if your boss treating you in the way you’re treating your teen would anger or upset or alienate you, odds are pretty darn good that the way you’re behaving is alienating, angering, or upsetting your teen – fact is, while your teen is not yet a full adult, they are rapidly approaching that status, and wanting to be treated as something closer to an equal than a small child – because the fact is, they’re not a small child anymore, and they are reaching the point where you don’t always know better anymore because you don’t always know what’s going on.
My folks were prone to belittling me or dismissing my worries/experiences and/or talking over me with probably well-meant “advice” when they didn’t understand the situation I was facing – and then they’d tell me things like, “You know you can tell me anything and I won’t get mad, I promise” but when I did actually tell them how I felt, they exploded and punished or berated me (probably at least in part because, as an autistic teen, when emotionally charged, I could either do tact by shutting up and shutting myself away or I could do verbal communication, but tactful/polite verbal communication wasn’t really doable for me – I was often blunt to the point of brutality on the occasions I could find a way to word what I was feeling, which wasn’t always. I do not, for example blame my parents for taking exception to having their kid regularly bellow profanity-laced tirades at them. I do, however, blame them for condescendingly launching into pat “just so” stories as if years of daily harassment and physical abuse was something that I could have “just” resolved by standing up for myself and dismissing what was going on in my life and belittling me and my experiences so often that I felt the need to blow up at them like that for it – by which I mean: Yeah I treated them poorly. But I treated them poorly in response to poor treatment of me on their part. I’m pretty sure that toxic parent-teen relationships are rarely toxic just in one direction, all the modern “poor hard-done-by ever-patient parents!” stories to the contrary notwithstanding). All in all, I spent most of my childhood and all of my teen years feeling unwelcome, unsafe, unvalued, and disrespected in my parents’ household.
^And I should note, that with retrospect, I don’t think they intended that. I just think that our society sets teens up to fail and then blames them when they do, and it’s really hard for parents to shed social programming to view teens as inherently foolish, deceitful and lazy – and it’s impossible for teens to shed that image once their folks have bought into it.
Katie you rock sista!