It’s the first thing I ask: “what did you say?”
The best answer (that I never get): “nothing”.
You’ve tried talking, talking, talking. You talk to them like they are a child (they are, and they aren’t). You reason with them. You give them advice, but they haven’t asked for any.
Parents forget: The teen years are not a plot to bring down the family, make you feel inadequate, or hurt anyone’s feelings. But if you talk to an adult the way you talk to a child, the result is predictable: they don’t want to talk to you anymore.
For most parents, the teen years sneak up like a broken trunk lid — one day it works just fine. The next day, you open it to put groceries in and wham! it comes down on the back of your head. When the hell did that happen? And what, precisely, is broken?
And remembering that they’re here, these teen years? How could you, when sometimes the trunk lid still works and other times it doesn’t and how are you supposed to KNOW? and damn I’m tired of getting nailed when I least expect it.
It’s the only way to stop the crazy from having its way. We — despite our best intentions and solemn oaths, are quite likely to hear our parents voices coming from our mouths. Our lips will say those oft-repeated but sworn-we-would-never-use curses from our childhood. But if we
…we can stop reacting. We can take a closer look — eyes, body language — we can see further into their heart and really LISTEN to what they are saying.
We can also take that quiet and use it to emotionally distance ourself. Just a bit. Just enough to think of this person not only as our child but also as an adult.
Adults don’t like being told what to do. They respect people who help them find their own inner voice. Our silence buys us time to remember the goal of parenting — to raise a human who knows the truth of who they are and how to find wisdom when no one is there to tell them what to do.
So we take some time to be quiet. We watch. We ask questions — not snarky ones looking for the “right” answer, but questions that help them find out what they really think.
We ask before giving advice. We say things like, “you can take this or leave it, but here are my thoughts,” and then we really let them take it or leave it.
This takes some time to internalize, this new way of relating to your teen. The silence will help. If you decide to do it, you won’t be sorry. Trust me. And stop talking.