How is it that you and your daughter so often fall out over the smallest things? You thought you were giving a compliment but she’s flying off the handle. Talking to teenagers can be a tricky business. Miscommunication is very common.
“We generally get on pretty well,” says Anne, mom of 13-year-old Sarah. “But I sometimes find that if I’m distracted and not giving the conversation my full attention that’s when we start miscommunicating.”
Chances are, your daughter is hypersensitive too and even suspicious of at least some of the things you say to her. It is a tricky time and even offering a compliment or a simple observation may be taken the wrong way; leaving you feeling like you can’t say anything right. Try not to take it personally – it can take time and patience to be on the same page as a teenage girl.
So how can you give her a compliment so she knows you mean it? How can you offer guidance or advice without it turning into a huge argument?
Remember that every relationship requires a special way of communicating. By being specific, signalling first and taking the time to talk, you’ll help your daughter to understand what you actually mean when you comment on her choice of outfit or latest hairstyle, avoiding the miscommunication that can damage her body confidence.
Try using our action checklist and you should find that talking to your daughter gets a whole lot easier.
It’s all about the art of good communication.
To protect privacy we’ve changed the names of the people whose stories we tell on these pages. But the stories they tell are absolutely genuine.
Here are three helpful strategies offered by cognitive researcher and psychologist Dr. Nancy Etcoff:
Be specific: It’s always easy to misinterpret what someone says, so it’s important that you choose your words carefully. “If you are offering her a compliment, be as specific as you can so she doesn’t misunderstand your true meaning.”
Signal first: If you want to offer some criticism or guidance, signal it first to soften what you’re saying, for example: “This might be something you won’t like me saying, but I think it can come across as rude if you…”
Take time to talk: Especially when it comes to conversations and comments about appearance, it’s critical to fully engage with your daughter, signalling to her that what she has to say is important to you.
And remember, you can improve communication by communicating better yourself.
Pay close attention when your daughter is talking : If you’re halfway through an email or watching TV, stop what you’re doing to show that you care about the conversation. If it’s something you can’t switch off, like driving the car or dealing with another one of your children ask your daughter if it can wait until later. Say, “I really want to talk about this properly, would you mind if we continue later when I can give you my full attention?”
Take your time over your words : Next time your daughter flares up at something you say, take a step back and think about exactly what you said – even write it down if you can remember it. How specific were you? Was there too much room for interpretation? How could you rephrase it better next time?
NHS Choices: talking to your teenager
NHS Choices: coping with your teenager
The Family Lives charity offers help and advice to families
Article date: 26 June 2013
Review date: 26 June 2014
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