Oh the angsty teenage years. Full of raging hormones, rebellious bursts and often a hard time for the teenager and parents involved. For some families, raising a teenager is a period of slammed doors and awkward conversations, while for others they seems to have no issue at all. This time of life is a unique one as teenagers are in this discovery phase of trying to find out who they are and who they want to be, as well as feeling pressure from family, friends and themselves.
As a parents, I can imagine there is nothing more desirable than to offer advice, since after all, you’ve endured that phase. I have seen this play out many times, and it can easily turn into a “should” instead of “could.” What if the most powerful thing you can do for your teenager is to provide your wisdom and leave the rest for them to grown into and figure out? Rachel Dougherty helps those living and working with young people, through supervision, coaching, speaking and consulting, and she has some great thoughts and tips on how to better communicate with your teenager.
Giving advice to teens can seem like an important role for parents. But if you want them to listen to you, you’ll need to find a clever way to share your thoughts that keeps them tuned in.
The teen years should be about releasing your child and letting them grow into the promise of an adult. This isn’t a smooth or simple pathway, but one filled with potholes and obstacles along the way. Your child will face plenty of crossroads where they must make a decision. Many parents can feel the need to herd their child along a particular path, dishing out advice along the way.
There’s nothing wrong with giving advice. But there is a right way and wrong way to give advice if you want to have a relationship, where they value your opinion.
A different perception of advice
I’m not one to give advice to my teens too often. There are times when I will put my foot down and tell them how something is going to be. That takes the decision out of their hands. But most of the time, we tend to talk through options and then I let them make a decision.
This approach works well in our house. We don’t have a lot of arguments and our kids are keen to seek our our opinions. There’s a level of trust that has built up over time where they accept our ideas and we accept their choices.
This doesn’t work all the time. There have been times where one of our teens has not been making good choices and we have had to step in. But there’s always been an awareness on our part that this is not ideal. That we need to get to a point where they can take over making their own decision once again.
If you’re ready to see advice as sharing your thoughts, not telling them what to do, follow my tips below. You’ll find that you too will have plenty of peace in your house.
7 tips for giving advice to teens
Teenagers are interesting creatures. If you’ve read my article on power, you’ll know that we need to hand over power, while building respect. Here’s some things to keep in mind when you get the chance to give some advice:
1. Don’t leap straight in to tell them what to do. There’s nothing wrong with letting teenagers try to work things out themselves. As long as they’re not in danger and there are adults around to step in, wait and see if they’ll come to you first.
2. Be tentative with your ideas. As teens get older, they like to feel that they’re making more choices. That’s a good thing to encourage, so if you’re handing over some advice do it with a, “Can I tell you what I think?” This makes it sound more like an opinion than an order.
3. Don’t rush their decisions. The art of making decisions is one that takes practice. Give your teenagers as much space as you can to work out what they’re doing. If the timeframe is short, then be clear about that. The more time they have to consider their plan, the more likely they are to make a good choice. Particularly if they don’t feel nagged in to going one way.
4. Leave space for them to come back with questions. Your teenager will want to talk, so don’t be too busy to listen.
5. Back up good decisions. There are few things that are completely black and white. Sometimes you have to give things a couple of goes to work out the right pathway. If they come up with a sound plan that you don’t agree with, share your thoughts but support their decision.
6. Have faith in them. Too many people seem to think that some decisions are too big for teens them to make. As a social worker, I’ve seen plenty of kids make grown up decisions. We all need to let our kids grow up and be their number one cheerleader.
7. Point out what they’ve done well. When they do make a choice and act on it, give them feedback along the way. We all prosper with positive feedback. Plenty of other people will tell them what they get wrong. We can give them encouragement and spot their strengths.
Like most aspects of parenting, these are not things you can get right all the time. Many of these choices and decisions will come during crisis points. It’s important for parents to keep a cool head and to admit to their own failing along the way. Focus on the end goal of a great relationship with your adult children to keep things in perspective too.
With any relationship, communication is important, and when it comes to the vulnerable time of life for teenagers, there could be extra grace involved. Do you have any successful tips on how you talk to your teenager? We would love to hear about them! And if you enjoyed Rachel’s words, make sure to check out more of her content HERE.