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How to Talk to Teenagers

Updated on February 21, 2012

Teenagers are baffling - they can be happy and energetic one minute, sullen and lethargic the next. They can be extremely self-centered, but are also capable of being very loving and giving. They often resist our efforts to give them advice and guidance, wanting to do everything on their own. Yet, other times they get upset when we don't give them enough attention. Communicating with your teenager can be frustrating, but there are a few simple rules that can help your interactions go more smoothly:

1. Do More Listening Than Talking

It is tempting to want to lecture your teen to death. After all, you were their age once, and you have plenty of advice to share with them based on your own mistakes. Unfortunately, they don't want to be lectured any more than YOU wanted to be lectured when you were their age. Sometimes, they just want to talk. They want to share their frustrations with someone they love (if that's YOU, that's a good thing!) There are times when it's best to sit back, bite your tongue, and listen. You never know what they might end up sharing with you. Of course, if they confide in you that they are involved in something unhealthy or dangerous, you will have to respond. But always hear them out before you cast judgments.

2. Don't Take It Personally

Teens are naturally self-centered. It's a normal part of their development. Trust me, you went through it, too. When they interact with you, they will often make thoughtless, hurtful remarks. They will neglect to thank you for making dinner after you've worked all day. They will ask you to buy them more and more things, never seeming satisfied. They will make sarcastic comments and act like they don't care about your feelings. Don't take it personally!

You can and should let them know when their behavior is hurtful. You can and should let them know when they have crossed the line, or if they are being disrespectful. But the worst thing you can do is to respond defensively. You are not their peer; you don't need to fight back. It is best to remain calm, and to see yourself as their teacher. Teach them the appropriate way to communicate with you, but don't explode when they haven't quite reached the pinnacle of respectful communication. They are learning. If you react with anger, this can lead to an endless cycle of resentfulness and bad feelings between you and your teen that can be very damaging to the relationship. You are the adult, and it is up to you to set the right tone.


3. Set Some Ground Rules

While you should be patient, you also need to maintain some basic rules. For example, you may want to establish a rule that there is no cursing or door slamming when you talk with each other. If you set up a rule, however, you both should stick to it. So don't set a rule that you can't live with yourself! If they break one of the communication rules, your reaction should be calm. You may need to tell your teen that you are taking a "time out" and will continue the discussion later, when they can follow the rules.

4. Enjoy Them

Despite the ups and downs, teenagers are fun to hang out with. They can be funny, silly, and adventurous. It's okay to have fun with them! Watch a silly movie, go out to eat, or just sit on their bed with them and look at a magazine together. It can be a very positive thing for your relationship if you can simply enjoy your teen's company from time to time!

Sage Carter shares ideas, information, and advice for better living. Visit her at


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    • sagecarter profile image

      sagecarter 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for your comments, Lori. It is an adventure, isn't it??

    • LoriSoard profile image

      LoriSoard 6 years ago from Henryville, Indiana

      As the mom of two teen girls, I can tell you that you have some excellent advice here. Above all, keep a sense of humor. You're going to need it when raising teens. LOL

      I voted you up and useful.