Teenagers are moody. And by moody I mean they always seem to be in a crappy mood – at least towards their parents. Sure, every now and then they may laugh but it’s usually at you, not with you.
At least that’s how it is in my house lately.
And, honestly, I’m kind of sick of it.
Thankfully, it’s my second time dealing with a teen and I know what teenagers are like (self-absorbed little know-it-alls) so I don’t take it personally—even if it is. Instead, in those moments when I want to walk out the front door and not come back until my youngest is 25, I employ the mantra I’ve used since my second child was born: “this too shall pass” (and I hide in my bathroom until the desire to flee has passed).
But, let’s be clear, just because I don’t take my kids’ lack of communication personally doesn’t mean that I like it. I miss my chatty, happy little kids and, even though I can’t have them back, I would like a little conversation every now and then.
So, in an effort to spark some dialogue (or at least get more than just a grunt) I asked my fellow moms of teens what they do when they want to get their kids to talk. Here are 6 tried-and-true ways to get your kid to open up – even if it’s just for two minutes.
- Don’t make eye contact. This is the cardinal rule of parenting a teenager. If you want to ask your kid a question do it while you are cooking dinner, reading a book or doing yoga – anything but looking directly at your kid. If, by mistake, you casually glance at your child while asking her what she wants for dinner, lie and say that you weren’t looking at her; you were looking past her and out the window at a cat that is stuck in the tree. It may confuse her long enough to avoid a total shut down for the night.
- Feed them. Snippy behavior is often just the result of being hangry (hungry makes for a vicious kind of angry in my house). And, sometimes, just forcing your family to sit around the table and share a meal results in a little conversation (As long as I look past the fight over no electronics at the table that we have EVERY NIGHT before we sit down. It’s a battle of wills that I lose every now and then.)
- Go to a robot competition. Or a museum or dance recital or some sporting event. Do something he or she likes to do even if you would rather stick bamboo shoots under your nails. It’s amazing how chatty kids get when they are excited about something. Feign excitement if you must but, more often than not, you might end up enjoying yourself after all.
- Drive your kid somewhere. It’s perfect. You can’t look at him while you are driving and he is stuck. BUT, (and this is very, very important) this only works if you “lose” your kid’s ear buds before he gets in the car. Once those babies go in, all hope of conversation is gone.
- Watch a favorite TV show or sporting event together. Warning: Only talk during commercials or lulls in the action. Whatever you do, DO NOT plop down to watch one of his or her favorite shows and start asking questions about the show. If you thought your kid was moody before just wait until you interrupt the most important part of his favorite show to ask what a character’s name is and why she is riding a dragon.
- Cardinal rule #2 – Don’t ask more than one question. Seriously. If you open with a question like, “How was school?” you have already put them on the defensive and their fight-or-flight response has kicked in. You need a follow up to that question that is not nearly so intrusive. If the next words in your interrogation, oops, I mean conversation, are something like, “Are you hungry?” then you have gone too far. Expect your kid to run away.
- And speaking of running away: Go away. I don’t mean what your kids are wishing you would do. No, I mean take a vacation, preferably with your teen since that’s the purpose of the break. Sometimes a change of scenery and a break from their routine helps kids regress a little and act like a kid again.
If you are really desperate you can always flip the main electrical breaker in the house and knock out the power and the wifi. Power outages can create a refreshing break from everyone heading to a separate corner with their respective devices. Of course, in order for this to really work, you would have to figure out a way to eliminate cell service, too…Clearly this one is a work in progress. I would start with 1-7 above.
How do you get your kids to talk? Let us know.
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