With rolled eyes and one-word answers, it's hard to tell if anything you say to your teen is really getting through. After all, distractions, misunderstandings and other family members can all muddle the message you're trying to tell your teen. If you really want to know if you're getting through, remove all distractions and work to ensure that your teen hears you loud and clear. Then, extend the same courtesy for when your teen needs you to listen, too.
Find a place and time to talk where your teen isn't going to be distracted by the computer, the TV, his cellphone or anything else that could pull his attention from what you're saying. If he's texting a friend while you're discussing his grades at school, it's unlikely that he's really listening to what you have to say.
Ask questions to get your teen involved in the conversation and listening to you. Nagging or lecturing might make you feel better, but there's a good chance that your teen tunes you out when she feels like the conversation is completely one-sided. Instead, ask questions and look for meaningful answers -- questions that require more than a one-word answer are best, suggests HealthyChildren.org.
Watch your teen's body language and hear what it's saying to you. With his arms crossed and his eyes looking off to the side, he could be zoned out and not listening. Instead, look him straight in the eye, facing him and asking that he do the same.
Ask your teen for input for solving conflict. If she's not doing well in math, try asking: "What do you think we could do to help improve your grades?" Asking your teen to participate in solving the conflict means she has to listen well and then brainstorm with you, making her an active part of the conversation.
Offer your teen a turn to talk while you actively listen. Not only will it help your teen feel heard, but it could also help teach him how to listen properly, modeled as you look him in the eye, ask thoughtful questions and avoid interrupting as he talks.
Watch for results in your teen's actions. While talk is simple, actions and change are often hard. You'll really know that your teen is taking your words to heart when they change her behavior. If you approach her about being nice to her siblings and you catch her making an effort, she's obviously listened well and some praise might be in order.
- HealthyChildren.org: How to Communicate with a Teenager
- The Everything Body Language Book; Shelly Hagen; p.138
- University of Missouri Extension: How to Listen to Your Teens
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