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Stop Saying These 4 Things To Your Teen and Say This Instead

Parenting teenagers can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions and challenges. In the heat of the moment, it’s so easy to say things that might seem harmless but can actually hinder communication, understanding, and connection. We might react impulsively because our emotions are strong when we are frustrated with what our kids are doing or saying. Sometimes, we might respond to our kids, trying to help them with their issues, but instead, what we say can make things worse. Moms, just remember, we are all learning and growing along with our teens, so give yourself grace and know that you are doing your best! Let’s be real- parenting our kids through these hard years can be stressful and confusing! I want to help you by sharing all I wish I knew when I had my teens because I, too, said the same things!

Here are 4 common things you may have heard yourself say and what you can say instead to build communication and connection and encourage growth in your teen.

  1. “What were you thinking?!”

As a parent, this is so easy to say when you have a teen who has done something that leaves you scratching your head in disbelief, thinking, ” What the heck were they thinking?!

Adolescents’ brains are still developing, and sometimes their actions may seem baffling. Rather than jumping to judgment, approach with curiosity and empathy. 

Instead, try: “I care about you, and help me understand.”

By expressing genuine concern and a desire to understand, you invite dialogue and create a supportive environment for them to open up and learn from their mistakes. 

On a side note, I have moms ask me on a weekly basis what their kids’ punishment should be when they mess up or make a mistake. Most of the time, their kid is fully aware that things didn’t go so well for them; sometimes, they already have experienced negative consequences. Take this into consideration. Don’t shame them. Know they will mess up and seek to have a meaningful conversation instead. 

  1. “Don’t be sad. Don’t be angry.”

As parents, it’s hard to listen when our kids are sad or upset. Our knee-jerk reaction is to want to fix things for them. However, denying or dismissing your teen’s emotions only invalidates their feelings and strains your relationship. 

Instead, remind yourself to: “Be a safe place for your teen to share their feelings.”

You can say something like, “Sounds like you were angry when your teacher said that.” or “I can see how that would hurt your feelings when Jenny left you out of the conversation.”

Remind yourself that the most important thing you can do is be a safe place for your teen to come when they are upset without fear of being judged or criticized. They don’t need you to fix how they are feeling. Instead, they need you to listen and validate that they aren’t alone nor are they crazy for feeling what they are feeling. Being a supportive presence as they navigate their emotions helps them learn to manage and cope with their feelings effectively.

  1. “It’s not that bad.”

While you might not fully understand your teen’s big emotions about different situations, don’t minimize their upset and what they are going through. Although it might not seem like a big deal to you, it’s important to remember that at this age, things do feel like a big deal to them. There are many circumstances our teens are in that we can’t fully understand because we don’t know all the details and we aren’t experiencing the situation at their age- fueled with hormones and stress! Acknowledge your teen’s feelings and perspective no matter how you feel about it. This will validate their emotions and strengthen your connection with them. 

Instead, try: “This sounds hard. I’m here to listen.” 

Empathy and reassurance go a long way in helping your child feel understood and supported during difficult times.

  1. “Let me help you.”

While we might not say this out loud to them, our actions speak louder than words. When you see your teen struggling with something or not doing something they need to be doing, it’s easy as a parent to want to jump in with advice or do things for them that they can do for themselves. As hard as it may be, resist the urge to intervene, give unsolicited advice, or solve their problems for them. 

As our kids transition into adulthood, our role needs to change from manager to mentor. But, how do we do that?

Instead, ask open-ended questions: 

“Would you like my support?” or “What might help you?” or “What do you want to do about that?”

The goal is to empower our kids to become independent, confident, and capable of solving their own problems by offering support and guidance instead of taking over. Empower your teen to take ownership of their challenges and seek assistance when needed. 

In the journey of parenting teenagers, communication is key. It’s easy to fall into patterns of reaction that hinder connection rather than fostering growth. By recognizing the impact of our words and actions, we can shift from being managers to mentors, creating an environment where dialogue thrives and our teens feel supported. Let’s replace dismissiveness with curiosity, invalidation with empathy, and intervention with empowerment. Together, let’s build bridges that guide our teens toward independence, resilience, and meaningful connections.

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