When you think of the word “teenager” what is the first thing that comes to your mind?  Attitude? Defiant? Impossible? It’s no secret that it can be difficult to communicate with adolescents.. Many people assume  their teenagers are overly emotional, impulsive, and sometimes just  mean. All of those statements can be true, but there are ways to help your teen and improve your communication. You can help them learn to make good choices despite their setbacks. In the midst of battles about curfew, chores, and the difference between shorts and underwear, it can be difficult to remember what the two of you were having a conflict about in the first place.

Though your teenager won’t believe you, the main concern regarding all of the disputes is love. If you didn’t love your child you wouldn’t be helping them to set limits, gain the skills they’ll need as adults, and keeping them safe from the wrong kind of attention. More often than not, these messages are lost in translation, as teenagers perceive your concerns in a negative light.

Preparing them for adulthood is one of your biggest goals and sometimes that means giving them the same feedback that the real world will. eens are egocentric and because of this, they can read negatively into criticisms aimed at helping them be functional adults. For example, you tell your daughter that she is not allowed to go to a party with a friend. She immediately hears “You cannot be trusted” and becomes resentful and angry. This reaction  could then drive defiant behaviors. There is a communication barrier in the way, if broken down,  it could possibly improve your relationship as well as your teenagers behaviors.

Feelings Matter

Help your teen learn to identify and express their feelings. Model how to assert your feelings. Often times not cleaning a room is a passive aggressive way of saying “I’m angry” or “something’s wrong.” Bottling up negative emotions can manifest in negative behaviors. Society has created  a negative stigma around expressing feelings, especially for young boys.Help them break down that stigma by teaching them that their emotions will come out no matter what and talking about them is more effective than acting them out.

Reinforce the Positive

Praise your child’s efforts and find positives in anything you can. Maybe the only things they’ve done around the house all week is tidy up their room and maybe that was only because their boyfriend was coming over, but they cleaned their room!  Don’t put your own meanings behind why your teen did the good thing, as that discounts any effort they put in. Focus on anything they’re doing correctly and tell them how great it is.

A Little Freedom Goes a Long Way

Give your teenager  freedom. I’m not suggesting giving them more freedom than they can manage, but appropriate amounts will help them develop confidence in their ability to make good decisions. As they go through life, there will be risks involved in allowing others to make decisions for them. It  is important for them to learn on their own.

Don’t Take it Personally

When children don’t know how to appropriately identify and express their emotions, it can come out in their behaviors. When your son says “I hate you!” it likely means “I’m really mad right now!” Accepting the notion that they truly do hate you can negatively impact your ability to parent based on what’s best for them.

Avoid Power Struggles

Adolescents are learning how to control and manipulate their environments and they LOVE control. The objective is not to take their control, but to teach them how to control themselves. Without realizing it  they are  testing  for results when they do certain behaviors. Give your teenager choices to help them feel empowered and decrease defiance.

For additional help for yourself or your teen, Thriveworks Counseling and Coaching is offering a  Teen Girls Group to address girls issues, as well as outpatient therapy! Call now for more information!