In my earlier article, I showed how often parents use communication blocks without even realizing it. A communication block is a remark or response to your kid’s statement that ends up feeling hurtful to them. Often our thoughts are just, I’m just trying to help, and instead our kids get mad at us.
I suggest listening with empathy at first before trying to problem solve or give advice. Look at the following teen statements and adult responses. Which responses would feel truly empathetic if you were the teen.
Keeping Communication Open Practice
1) Teen: I don’t like my stupid teacher. She’s mean to me.
- What have you done to make her mad at you?
- I know what we should do. Let’s get together and talk with her to solve this problem.
- Don’t be ridiculous. Of course your teacher likes you.
- I bet it’s hard to be in a class when you feel unfairly treated.
Most kids would feel that #4 is most empathetic and be encouraged to keep talking which is your goal.
2) Teen: I just can’t do this. It’s too hard
- Stop complaining. It’s not too hard for you.
- Just do a little bit, take a break and then do more.
- You seem frustrated with this work.
- It isn’t as bad as it seems. You can do it.
#3 is the most empathetic response.
3) Teen: My best friend can’t come to my party. If s/he really was my friend, s/he would figure out a way to come.
- How disappointing. You were counting on her (him) coming.
- Well, things don’t always turn out the way we want them to.
- I remember when I was your age and a good friend didn’t come to my party.
- I could talk to her (his) mom and see if we could work something out.
#1 is the most empathetic.
4) Teen: I don’t understand why friends just turn on me. What did I do?
- Let’s talk about what you do and we can figure it out.
- Friendships can be very challenging to figure out.
- I would imagine you are doing things to create this problem.
- Friendships come and go. You’ll make new friends.
#2 is the most empathetic.
Whenever I discuss what is empathetic and what responses block communication, there is always moments of great awareness in parents that wasn’t there before. Please call or email me if you would like to have a conversation about these ideas. I’ll be offering a 7 week webinar for parents of teens starting in January 29, 2012
Cynthia Klein is a certified parent educator since 1994. She is a speaker, author and private parenting coach. She writes the Middle School Mom column for the magazine Parenting on the Peninsula. Her website is bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com.