Ask them to participate in decision making, and they will start responding to you like an adult. Speak to your kids like adults. Instead of commanding them to do something, talk it over with them.
“Good morning, Alex. I’m making myself some eggs; would you like some? Anything I can do to help you get going?”
“Mom and I have been talking over the idea of going to Colorado for Spring Break. What do you kids think? The other option that might be possible is a visit to the Grand Canyon, but we want your input. Any thoughts?”
“Mom and I like that lunch restaurant in Tahoe. Do you have enough time this evening to get packed, so we could all get out of here by 8:00 tomorrow morning? If we leave by 8:00, we can make it there by noon.”
“Gabriella, relationships are important things. If I were you, I would reconsider how I’m treating my friends.”
In each of these examples, the parent is inviting the child to participate in the decision-making process. Instead of feeling like a slave who has to do whatever the master says, the child feels like his or her voice is important to the parent.
A simple way to check whether you’re doing this right is to ask yourself, “Would I talk to an adult friend with these words?” If the answer is “no,” then think of what you would say to the adult friend and use those words.
If you as a parent can make the switch from talking to your adolescent like a child to talking with your adolescent like an adult, you will establish a healthy mode of communication.
Where the real problem lies
I hate to say this, but so many problems that occur between parents and their teenaged children are the fault of the parent.
Parents are used to being the bosses in the family. Kids should do what they’re told!
Teaching young children to obey their parents is important. We don’t want our 5 year-olds running out into the street in front of cars, jumping into fires or drinking bleach from the garage. Parents who don’t teach their kids to give weight to their voices are doing them a disservice.
Similarly, though, parents who don’t allow their children to grow up and become adults are stunting their growth and hindering them from becoming the people they can potentially be.
Speaking to teens like adults, giving them responsibilities within boundaries, respecting them as decision-makers in the family and not overreacting to their mistakes can create an environment where kids can grow and develop into responsible, well-balanced adults.
And, without question, our world needs more well-balanced adults, not fewer. The benefits – really, the dividend – cannot be overstated.