Teen Translator: What It Means When Your Kid Says…

We decided to write this post to decode some teen lingo, voice tone and slang.  Feel free to add your comments or stories below! Of course, our words and tones can be taken many different ways, but below are some phrases and “moooommmmm??!!” you probably hear a lot and what they mean.

Teen Translation: Understanding our Phrases

1. “I hate you.”

We hate you like we hate a bad test.  Hate is a strong word, and we use it because we know how much it bothers you, more than it bothers us. We hate a bad test day because it feels unfair, and really bad at the time, but we know we will get another chance at it soon and might do really well.  That is usually how we feel when we say this (unkind and unfair phrase) to our parents or siblings.  We hate you right now, we feel you are unfair, but when we try again next week it might be all better.

2. “That’s stupid”

Stupid is really a code word for “I don’t get it.”  The thing itself is not stupid, but it sure makes us feel that way.  If your kid says that your trip to Grandma’s is stupid, or taking out the trash is stupid, think what about it they do not understand.  In a kid’s mind going to Grandma’s is pointless: it is a long drive, mom hates it, dad complains, no one can play anything and the food is bad.  So, why go? This is where you can acknowledge, “yup, going to grandma’s can sometimes seem like it is pointless with the long drive and the way everyone complains, but it is worth it because it makes Grandma happy and she looks forward to it all week.”

3. “Got my report card today”

Something big is coming and we want to see what you will do about it.  Usually this is a leading statement and we are testing you.  Whether the report card is abominable, wonderful or mediocre, we want to see what kind of mood you are in.  If you are in a bad mood, we will play up the fact that no one else got A’s in Mrs Fiske’s class, if you are in a good mood we will play up the B minus as a solid 80.  We also want to see if you will be angry before we even tell you what we got, this can give us hint to what kind of tactic we will use with you.  The best thing to do? Ask simply (without foreboding OR exciting tone), “Oh ya? Are you happy with it?”  This is as neutral as you can get and starts what could be a good or very bad conversation on the right foot.

4. “You always do this.”

Teen Translation: we are in a pattern that I do not like, but I do not have the capacity or resources to change it.  When I am working with families, and this phrase comes up (it almost always does…from both sides) I am actually happy.  This is because it means that there is a pattern and the person recognizes it.  First, ask them what “this” is. Let them articulate for you what exactly they hate.  Then ask them “what do you think causes this?” Then ask them how, together, you can both stop the cause.

Kid Translation: Understanding Our Tones

Tone is so important. Not only does it help convey meaning, but it is also an amazing view into the mind of a teen or kid.  You know when your child is whining or tells you something and you cannot quite gauge what the motivation is.  listen very carefully for two things:

1. Tone of Voice (and what else they say in that tone of voice).

Example: “Can’t Sadie come over to plaaayyy???”

And this sounds exactly like when your child asks for candy.  Meaning, he knows it is not necessary, but would really like it as a treat.  This is when you can respond accordingly:

Response: “I’ll tell you what, that would be a real treat, so if you clean your room, I will call Sadie’s mom to come over.”

Because your child already saw Sadie coming over as a treat, they are much more likely to clean their room to get it.

2. Word Emphasis

Listen carefully to what word is emphasized in the sentence, this can also give you much more insight to a teen’s words and deeper desires as well.

Example: “Is Dad taking me to the dance?”

If DAD is emphasized, there is a conflict, problem or worry about Dad specifically taking them to the dance versus someone else.

Response: “I can take you or if we know the parents, you might be able to get a ride with a friend, but yes, the plan was for him to take you.”

This will save you a ton of time and beating around the bush.  Also your teen or child will feel very understood immediately.

3. Let’s Look at Some Kid Translation Examples

The Phrase we are examining: “I want to go to the movies”

  • I want to go to the movies? (Upward voice inflection)

=I’m not sure whether I want to go, even though this is a statement.

  • I WANT TO GO TO THE MOVIES! (Shouting)

=I feel intense about going and am worried you might take this away from me.

  • I want to go to the movies. (Emphasis on ‘I’)

=This is something I am choosing and there might be someone (you or otherwise) who does not want to go or does not want to go with me and I have feelings about that.

  • I want to go to the MOVIES. (Emphasis on movies)

=I want to go to the movies and not somewhere else.

  • I. want. to. go. to. the. movies. (Slow careful delivery)

=I want to be heard and understood about this or at this point in my day.

  • I want to go to the movies. (Whispering)

=I am trying to be patient and I am scared about what you might say.

  • I want to go to the movies. (Whiney tone of voice)

=I am exasperated and discouraged bc I am not getting what I want.

  • I want to GO to the movies. (Emphasis on go)

=I want to go, movies and who with are less important, but I need to get out of where I am right now and feel like things are happening.

You could also just ask them what they mean! This is the best case scenario, but of course, we all know that most of the time you have to do a little lingo detective work.  I hope this helps.  Feel free to show them this post and ask them to dissect meaning from someone else together, this shows them you really care what they do mean, their tones and words do have significance and it could be a great bonding activity.

One Response to “Teen Translator: What It Means When Your Kid Says…”

  1. Jordan
    January 22, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    I loved reading this. From a teens point of view, this is kinda funny. You right about mostly all of this. Parents most usually do not take the time to “decode” our tones, so that’s probably usless. I’ll tell you the universal secret to what teens want from their parents. This applies to all teens, I don’t care the condition. Are you ready?: Teens want their parents/parent to listen to them, let them tell them their entire side of things, and for their parents to thing about what they just said before commenting in a hastey fashion, that usually leads to a fight. I wish my mom would listen to what I have to say… sometimes. Parents might find out that their children are alot more complicated than they think If they would just take the time to *LISTEN*. That is the key to solving “Parent Vs. Teenage” problems. Abbrakadabra!~

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