Communicating effectively with your tween and teen is a practiced art.
The following tips and scripts can help you broaden your palette of responses.
DO: Acknowledge her viewpoint. (You can do this by repeating her perspective back to her.)
DON’T: Call her names or apply labels. (“You are so irresponsible!”)
DO: Empathize with his emotions.
DON’T: Feel his emotions for him.
DO: Listen to what she has to say.
DON’T: Spend the time while she is talking formulating what you will say next.
DO: Stick to the facts. (“Saying bad things about your sister to her friends hurt her feelings and caused problems in her friendships.”)
DON’T: Insert interpretations about her personality or motivations. (“You were just trying to ruin your sister’s party because you can’t stand it when the attention is not on you!”)
DO: Use “I” statements. (“I’m not comfortable with that.”)
DO: Take time to cool off and allow him to do the same.
DON’T: Get lured in to discussing a different issue.
DO: Treat her with the respect you would like from her.
DON’T: Try to protect her from dealing with frustrations and disappointments.
DO: Go back to being positive after a tense discussion, even if he is not.
DON’T: Expect complete resolution in one sitting.
The following scripts can serve as templates for how to respond to your tween. Keep in mind that even the kindest and most neutral words can fall flat of their intent if your tone of voice and body language is antagonistic or sarcastic. A good way to monitor this is to ask yourself, “If this were a business relationship, how would I behave?”
“I can see why you feel ___________.”
“You can be mad. You may not take out your anger on others.”
“I wish we agreed on this. I don’t like seeing you upset.”
“That sounds frustrating.”
“I understand that you are angry about my decision.”
“I know. It stinks when parents have to set limits.”
“Let’s take some time to cool off and then we can talk about it more.”
“It’s hard for me to think straight when we’re mad at each other. When you are ready to discuss this without yelling, let me know.”
“I’m not OK with what just happened. We will talk about it later.”
“I have given you my answer.”
“Let me repeat this back to you so I can make sure I understand how you are looking at this.”
“Help me understand why this is important to you.”
“I’m way too frustrated to have this conversation. Give me some time to calm down.”
“I hear that this is important to you. I can understand your desire to ______ because _________. As your parent, I cannot allow you to __________ because _______. I know you may not like or agree with my decision and I understand you may feel angry about it.” (End of discussion!)
When your tween won’t hear “no”:
Tweens are hard wired to negotiate. Go ahead and expect it. However, do not respond to repeated pleas designed to change your mind. Don’t engage in endless debates with your tween even though she wants to play lawyer in the hopes of persuading you to her viewpoint. If necessary become a “broken record” with a short and clear response.
Although you may be irritated with your tween’s persistence, be sure that you continue to use a calm, even tone as you interact with him. When in the midst of a heated disagreement, save the long lectures and explanations for another time. Your wisdom and rationale will be more likely to sink in once his emotions have cooled.
Tweens can be very persistent. Remember when they were two and you sometimes had to ignore their whining? Persistently asking you to change your mind is the new whining. Learn to detach and keep your cool.