Tired of every discussion you have with your child ending in a fight? Do you feel like your child doesnít listen to you? Do you desire a peaceful, loving relationship with your adolescent?

We Know: How to Communicate Successfully with Your Teenager
A few helpful hints on parenting from former middle school teacher and children's writer Molly Hersage.

3 Reminders before engaging in a discussion with your teenager

Unnecessary arguments between parents and their children often occur because parents do not remind themselves of three important truths about their teenagers:

  1. Children are still growing
  2. Silence sends a message too
  3. Children are vulnerable

Reminder #1: Children Are Still Growing

A childís development is an ongoing and therefore gradual process. While there are many lessons we as adults wish we could teach our children without their having to experience it, learning is often best accomplished through experience. It is important that a child participate in at least some of lifeís activities, before she forms her own opinions. If you can simply listen to your childís ideas and observe her choices (even if you donít agree with them) most of the time she will come around to your way of thinking.

Reminder #2: Silence Sends a Message Too

Teenagers learn by talking through their ideas. Even when parents do not object or disapprove, adolescents still learn, because they are hearing their ideas and feelings about a situation. A parentís decision not to voice an opinion can often be the best guidance for a child. By not saying anything, parents send the message that they trust their child to make a decision on his own. If parents can be patient with their teenager, often a child will seek guidance from them. Advice is always better received by adolescents when it is asked for, not given to them.

Reminder #3: Children Are Vulnerable

While teenagers may respect and admire your opinions, as part of adolescence, they are also struggling to form ideas of their own. Like all human beings, teenagers have an innate limit of criticism they will tolerate before they stop listening! Parents need to make sure that when they initiate battles with their teens, the discussions are limited and respectful.

When you are ready to talk

With the three reminders clear and present in your mind you are now ready to begin a discussion with your teenager. When you are ready to initiate a discussion, take these strategies with you. They will help to focus the discussion and hopefully create an opportunity for open, honest, healthy communication.

Participate More in the Discussion

For conversations you engage your child with you need to be prepared to talk more than usual. Begin by listening. Children need to know they are being heard. Let your child know you would like him to speak first. Assure him or her you will not interrupt, that you intend to restate his perspective when he is done, and that when he has finished you will be honest with him about your own feelings.

Be ready to Offer Specific Advice and Multiple Strategies

Be ready to offer specific advice and multiple strategies for reaching a solution. Give your child tangible advice she can apply now and to future situations. Give her examples of smart choices she can make. Give positive feedback about smart choices she has made in the past. Remind her of the qualities she already possesses that can steer her in the right direction. Let her choose the method that works best for her. Be willing to compromise your strategies accordingly.

Keep the Long Term in Mind

Donít engage your child just to band-aide this situation. Help your child to create boundaries (see "How to Set Boundaries with Your Teenager") for his future. Use the dialogue not only to express current perspectives about a situation but also to make decisions about how to view similar issues that may occur later on. Build on your parent/child foundation by choosing to agree on a strategy, therefore avoiding potential conflicts and battles in the future. End the discussion by thanking your child for his candor. Assure him you feel confident and encouraged by your dialogue with him. Articulate your desire to avoid conflicts in the future. Share what efforts you have made in the current discussion, as well as efforts you will make from now on, to tackle issues that may arise. Finally, ask your child to tell you how he feels about the dialogue and what he what commitments he would like to make to better your discussions in the future.

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