Remember when you were a teen and did something foolish, or even blatantly broke the rules, and got caught? Chances are your misconduct was met with a lecture from either a parent or other adult. Most likely, you rolled your eyes at the onset of this long-winded explanation of why what you did was wrong, dangerous, out of control, etc. It’s probably the same way your teen rolls her eyes at you when you launch into a conversation intending to be helpful and instructive. Instead of teaching your teen an important life lesson, your words are dismissed or met with rebellion, disinterest, or even rage.
So how can you turn a lecture into a thought-provoking, open conversation? One in which your teen engages and actually responds, and most importantly takes away a new idea or solution that empowers her to make a better choice next time?
These conversation starters are a good springboard into meaningful conversations. They will set a tone that demonstrates to your teen that you see her as a capable individual. Your teen will respond differently because she won’t feel attacked or ashamed.
Instead of… I’ve told you so many times to take out the garbage on Tuesdays! Every week you forget or you’re too busy. I’ve just had it! This is irresponsible behavior. What do you have to say for yourself?
Try… I noticed this is the third week you didn’t empty the garbage. I understand you are busy and have other things on your mind. What else is getting in the way?
Instead of… You missed another homework assignment?!?! This is starting to add up! I’m probably going to hear from your teacher any day now. Don’t you care about your grades? This is no way to get into college. Do I need to take away your phone? I’m sure that’s distracting you!
Try… I’m curious about all these missing assignments. What support do you need?
Instead of… What is going on here? I found a vape pen in your backpack. Where did you get it? Are you using your allowance to buy this poison? Do you know how bad this is for you? You could get in a lot of trouble if you got caught with this at school. You are doing some real harm to yourself.
Try… I’d like to talk to you about what I found in your backpack. Please help me understand why you are choosing to vape.
Instead of… You are eating too much junk food! We’ve talked about this. A poor diet can impact your weight, your energy, your mood. It’s really getting out of hand. I found empty bags of chips under your bed and there’s candy in your drawers. I’m really concerned and worry that you don’t even care about what you are doing to yourself.
Try… It seems like you’re snacking a lot more than usual. How is that going for you?