Parents. We all know that trying to have guiding conversations with your teens can be one of the most frustrating things you ever have to do in your parenting life. From the eye rolling to the arm crossing to the stink eye and closed body language it can feel like you are in a foreign country trying to explain to the waiter your food allergies.
A little something for you to remember. They really are listening! Even if you don’t think they are. And if you get agitated, irritated, and judgmental while you try to impart your parental wisdom, part of what they are processing while they are listening is the incongruity of how you used to talk to them when they were “little” and how you talk to them now.
Yes, it seems like they behaviours you are trying to ‘correct or guide’ are a bigger deal now than when they were younger. When they were 5 you were explaining to them why pulling the dogs tail was a bad thing and now you are talking about why smoking pot is a bad thing. To you, this is a huge difference. To them, no difference at all.
- Do you know why we don’t want you to pull the dogs tail?
- We’ve talked about this. (Wink at their cute little faces) Why is is wrong to bite your little sister?
- Remember when we told you not to turn the headphones up too loud on your phone? Can you tell me why we did that?
Now that they are teens we have changed our approach to these conversations.
- What were you thinking?
- I swear I’ve told you thousand times?
- You should know better…
The thing is that the adolescent brain is not fully developed until they are 25 years old. Yes, you heard me correctly…25 YEARS OLD
Until then, we as adults need to remind ourselves that it is still our job to remind them for the 100th time why something is a bad idea in the kind, concerned yet sing song-y voice that we used to remind them for the 1000th time not to pull the dog’s tail.
What were they thinking? They were not really thinking. They were testing, experimenting, trying, with little to no thought about anything else. (No, they did not think that this could be a bad idea.)
Yes, you have told them 1000 times. Yes they did hear you. Their growing brains weighed what they know you told them with their desire to experiment with life, learn things for themselves. For 1000th time their brains won out….maybe on 1001 will be the time they go with your suggestion.
Should they know better? Debatable, but brain experts say NOPE, they should not know better. Their brains do not do critical analysis yet. Their brains do not do risk assessment yet. They do however assess whether they think it will be fun, if it will be a new experience, if they will be doing it with friends. This is how they were designed. Yes, of course there are always exceptions to every rule, but brain science says this is the average, so this is what we can expect as parents.
So I ask you to firstly know you are not alone. You are not the only parent experiencing this seemingly other worldly phenomenon.
Try taking a deep breath before you approach a conversation.
Be ok with having the same conversation over and over, and over and over AGAIN.
Approach these conversations, no matter how they seem to be received, with that sing-song-y voice you used when they were 5.
Remember the old adage ‘you will catch more bees with honey than vinegar’?
Listen as well as talk.
And remember ‘repetition is the mother of learning’