Channeling Back-Talk to Increase Parent-Teen Communication

Back-talk, muttering, snide remarks, and more are hallmarks of teenagehood. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating to have your teen constantly sass you. But there is a way to reframe balk-talk and make it a positive thing that you can use to increase your parent-teen communication. Because even if your teen is back-talking, at least they are still talking to you.

Developing effective communication techniques are part of what we help teens do here at Liahona Treatment Center. Because of our experience, we wanted to share some insights on how you can channel your teen’s back-talk into more effective communication.

Focus On The Point Of The Conversation

Having your teen roll their eyes at you while you are trying to talk, or having them back-talk, can derail the conversation you are trying to have and make it devolve into a pointless fight. Next thing you know, you’ve spent over an hour talking about disrespect, rehashing instances where your teen acted rudely, and the conversation you were trying to have is effectively over.

Instead of allowing conversations to run off in less effective directions, do your best to focus on the point of your conversation. When your teen can’t get a rise out of you or shift the topic, they are more likely to at least minimally communicate with you.

Avoid Negotiating With Your Teenager

Sometimes, parents will try and negotiate with their teens to get them to communicate. The problem with this tactic is that it starts the conversation from a point of weakness for you.

Here’s an example of negotiating communication to avoid:

Parent - “I just got an email from your math teacher, and she said you failed the last three tests and haven’t gone to class in two days. We need to talk, but you should know that you’re going to be grounded for a month starting today.”

Teen - “No! Homecoming is this weekend, and I already have a date. Can’t I make up the tests and start my grounding next week?”

Parent - “Can you even make up three failed math tests without tutoring?”

Teen - “Maybe, I can go to the afterschool tutor center and try.”

Parent - “And what should I do if you don’t make up the tests by Homecoming?”

Teen - “Well, doesn’t it count as long as I’m trying?”

As you can see, the parent is derailed from the conversation about skipping classes, as well as what caused their teen to fail those math tests. Instead of having that conversation, the parent got sucked into negotiating with their teen and indulged their teen’s back-talk.

Show Your Teen Respect As You Two Talk

Okay, this technique can be tough to implement. When the person you are housing, feeding, and taking care of in general gets mouthy with you, it can be hard to extend respect. However, if you want your teen to communicate respectfully, you will need to model that for them.

For instance, say a parent asks their teen about their grades. Many teens will try to avoid a conversation about grades unless they have straight A’s, so the teen may say something like, “Grades don’t even really matter, I’m just going to get a job.” If the parent starts to name-call, saying their teen is too lazy and spoiled to get a job and will get fired, their teen is likely to be disrespectful right back.

Instead, let’s take the example from when the teen declares they will just get a job. A parent who wants respectful communication can say, “Well, getting a job is a goal of going to school. Thing is, you can get better jobs with good grades. I want you to be happy and successful with a job you enjoy, that’s why I ask about grades.”

With that kind of response, it is far more likely that the teen will be receptive and feel like they are being taken seriously.

Let Grumbles And Mumbles Go

Many teens resort to mumbling something rude or grumbling at the end of a conversation as a way to get the last word. It can be incredibly irritating, and many parents will rise to the bait and try to talk to their teens about disrespect or try to address the mumbles.

Rather than take the bait your teen is putting out, just ignore grumbles and mumbles. For one thing, it is impossible to control what your teen says. Anyone who says they can have likely resorted to extreme measures and their children are too terrified to back-talk. So, to avoid being pulled into a pointless fight that leaves you tired and drained, just brush off your teen’s mumbling back-talk.

Know When To Stop Talking To Your Teen

There are times where emotions are too charged, and during these times, it is best to put a conversation on hold rather than trying to keep engaging with your teen. The problem is if communication completely breaks down between you and your teen.

In these cases, your teen may benefit from a therapeutic boarding school, where they can learn better control of their emotions, receive personalized therapy in multiple forms, attend classes and catch up with their peers, and more.

By working on your ability to communicate with your teen, not only will you be able to increase the communication between you and your teen, but you may also be able to build up your relationship with your teenager.

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