How to Get Your Teen to Listen to You
“How do I get my daughter to listen to me?”
This is the big question for moms of teens. It seems so easy, right? You tell your daughter what seems reasonable and you want her to listen to you. But actually, we want more. We want our teens to do what we say. We want them to listen and do what we say. And then there’s the respect factor. We equate respect with our teens listening and doing what we say.
Because our advice seems reasonable to us, we think it should be reasonable to our teens. We think, “Why wouldn’t she listen to me?”
Now it’s been a long time since I was in high school but I do remember the times my mom would say, “Are you listening to me?” I never talked back to my mom, I feared her reaction, but I sure knew how to zone out. Even today I can picture my mom blocking the doorway to my teenage room, with her finger pointing at me, while giving me a big mom lecture. And though she would go on and on, I wouldn’t hear a word she said. I’d go to my happy place and think if I zoned out long enough she would be done and then I could merrily go on my teenage way.
Today I have great empathy for my mom. How frustrating is that!?
This is why moms want to pull their hair out. It is so maddening when our daughters argue with every word we say or wall off in their room. Their actions and attitudes convey they have not listened to one word we said. And they probably haven’t.
Nothing triggers a mom like not being heard or obeyed. And this can make us go a little Cray Cray. The urban dictionary defines Cray Cray as taking craziness to a whole other level. The ultimate second power of crazy.
In other words, we can “lose it,” which means we lose emotional control. We end up acting in a way that is not congruent with who we are. We raise our voices, threaten, belittle, bring up every negative thing we can think of, and get defensive and I’ve talked to several moms who end up slapping their daughters.
Here’s the big problem. Your daughter is not going to hear your content; she is going to hear that you’ve gone Cray Cray. See the delivery of our content can actually be the obstacle and reason our teens don’t hear us.
Your daughter is going to hear the delivery of your message more than your content. She will see the angry expression on your face, how you are standing, how loud your voice is, and if you slam your fist on the table.
Moms do these things because they feel powerless not because they are bad people. However, this delivery is building a brick wall between you and your daughter. The delivery guarantees that your teen will definitely not listen to you.
“Then what can I do?”
I want to give you three practical tools to get your daughter to listen to you.
1. Listen to your daughter first. If you want your daughter to listen to you, then model listening to her. She wants to be heard and understood just like you do. Most teenagers think of adults as one gigantic mouth always talking down at them. If you listen to your daughter it doesn’t mean she’s in control, and that you’ve lost your power. Actually, it’s just the opposite. Listening and maintaining self-control is a very powerful position. You don’t have to agree with her, you just need to understand her perspective.
Here’s why this is important. Your daughter’s brain is undeveloped. You are trying to give feedback and guidance to someone who is not dealing with a full deck. When you listen to her, you see where she is minimizing or missing important information. This allows you to speak accurately about her situation.
2. Avoid the Big Mother Lecture. This is the machine gun approach to parenting. You are firing everything you can think of at her hoping something will stick. It’s too much. Because of where her brain is developmentally the wrong thing will stick. She will hear something that you didn’t even really say and react to it. Because you have fired everything at her, she will fire back at you. This is another reason we need to listen first. One accurate statement or boundary spoken to your daughter is one hundred times more effective than thirty minutes of ranting and raging.
3. You need to be calm and clear. We do the machine gun approach when we are not calm or clear. When your daughter walks into your house drunk, you are going to be shocked, hurt, or angry. This is not a good time to talk with her. If your daughter is upset, angry, or drunk she can’t really hear you. At that moment contain the situation and the next day you can approach her. This gives you time to get clear about your boundary, what to say, and what not to say. It allows you time to calm down enough to listen to her first.