[Discussion] 7 Things Parents Should Never Say to a Teen

Yesterday, on the Today Show Michele Borba discussed 7 things parents should never say to their teen or tween. As a younger person who hears these things from my parents still, I did not agree with all of her advice and wanted to put a summary (and my comments) on here.

1. NEVER SAY: “How was your day?”
DO SAY: “Tell me about your day.” Or “Tell me about your Baseball game.”

Teens do often respond to “how was your day” with a one-word type of grunt and Borba argues that asking more open-ended questions that require a more specific answer is better. Yet, I often did not feel like talking to my mom right when I got in the car, or right when I got home from school. There is no point in asking specific questions if it is not a good moment for your teen.

-Do ask your teen more specific questions, but make sure you are asking at a good time for your child, when your teen is not unwinding from a long day.

2. NEVER SAY: “Tell him to leave you alone!”
DO SAY: “Where did it happen?”

I actually think asking a bunch of specific questions will make them feel prodded, I do think that you should empower your teen with knowing the facts if they are being bullied. Yet, I always felt that my parents asking me lots of detailed questions made their genuine empathy appear to me as meddling or nagging.

-Do not ask a bunch of questions right away, ask them if they are ok and if they need some space. Tell them you respect their privacy and when and if they’re ready you can try to help them work through it.

3. NEVER SAY: “What was she wearing?”
DO SAY: “What do you enjoy about her?”

Absolutely, agree that there should be less emphasis on appearance and clothes and more about deeper interests.

-Avoid statements about clothes, height, weight, popularity and emphasize characteristics you want your son or daughter to value.

4. NEVER SAY: “Toughen up!”
DO SAY: “You seem really upset.”

I would hate if my parent said either one of these things to me. Empathy is absolutely necessary, but “you seem really upset” is obvious and unnecessary.

-“tell me more” would be better. It shows you are listening, you are empathetic and there is no judgement, it is also very open-ended, if they decide to keep talking-great, if not don’t push it.

5. NEVER SAY: “Why did you do that?”
DO SAY: “What did you hope would happen?”

I call “why did you do that” type responses ‘slippery statements’ because you usually never get a positive response from a teen. I think asking them what they thought would happen is a little less demanding and threatening and would work very well.

-add: “are you happy with the result now?”

6. NEVER SAY: “Relax!”
DO SAY: “Let’s find ways to help you de-stress.”

I hate when people say “Relax!” to me! I agree with Borba with the sentiment that you want your teen to find a way to de-stress, but I would never, ever say this to them. If my parent said that to me, I would probably laugh.

-Don’t tell them you want to find ways to de-stress, ask them open-ended questions like “what would make you feel better?”

7. NEVER SAY: “Get over it!”
DO SAY: “I’m so sorry. You must hurt!”

This is the same principle as number 4 and number 6.

-Show them empathy, tell them you care, and try to ask open-ended questions that get them to come to their own answers.

Here is the original article from which I quoted and commented.

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