Heart to HeartParenting

How to Be A Good Listener to Your Teens

how to be a good listener to your teens

Being a good listener to teens is a necessary skill you must have as a parent or caregiver. Most times, teens just need parents to listen and not judge or proffer an immediate solution.

A lot of teens would prefer their parents to be “Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.”

Dr Netta Weinstein, associate professor in clinical and social psychology at the University of Reading, reportedly stated that in “Parent-teenager relationships, quietly listening to a teenager while showing them they are valued and appreciated for their honesty has a powerful effect on their willingness to open up.”

The following are major ways of being a good listener to your teens:

This is no easy task, but it is doable. Being a good listener takes deliberate effort and practice.

1. Be Attentive to Them

You need to give them 100% attention. Don’t act like a chatbot or talkbot in their life, by giving robotic responses to their queries and statements.

Most teens, just like everyone else want your undivided attention. Even younger children know when you’re not really listening to them.

A 5 year old was asking her dad a question and he was replying to her absent-mindedly while browsing on his phone. The girl went to her mum and said, “Mum, why is it when I talk to dad, he keeps using his phone, and does not really answer me, but when I talk to you, you put down your phone and look at me?”

Hmmm…What a perceptive little girl!

Your teen also needs you to make eye contact when they talk and not be distracted with your phone, T.V., laptop or social media. It screams insensitivity to their feelings.

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2. Body Language is a Necessity

This is a follow-up to point one. Your teen would know you’re truly following if you respond with noticeable movements. It could be a nod of your head, a smile, making eye contact and a touch etc. Be an active listener and not a passive one.

3. By Showing Empathy

You need to listen to them with empathy when they are talking; put yourself in their shoes. Try and understand what your teen is saying, before needing them to understand your own reasoning.

When you show genuine empathy, they would readily listen to you. Stephen Covey’s 5th Habit in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, reads, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

4. Do not Give Unsolicited Advice

It’s important to know that your teen might not need immediate advice from you when he or she relates something to you. They might just want to vent or talk and they need you to listen to their ranting. Be sensitive to their mood and state of mind. Before you offer advice, ask them first if you can give it.

5. Don’t Interrupt Them

I’m almost tempted to say, put a sock in it when they are speaking. Allow them to speak uninterrupted. Don’t butt in and disrupt the flow of what they are saying with a quick judgement, reprimand, or even a ‘harmless’ question. They might lose interest and not want to continue talking.

Even if he or she showed indiscretions in a matter, patiently hear them out. Moreover, you’re not really listening if you’re thinking of what to say immediately after your teen is done talking.

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I heard a story about a teen boy who was telling his mother how his phone got stolen and he had not gone far in talking to her before the mother said, “You are careless.” I’m sure you can guess what happened next? He got angry and didn’t speak again.

In the words of Epictetus, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

6. Restate What your Teen Says

It would mean a lot to your teen if they know you are actually following when they are speaking, and not glancing at the clock several times or drumming your fingers on the table, with a plastered smile on your face.

How can they know? When you play back some of the major points that were mentioned by them or ask follow-up questions, if necessary.

Let’s assume your teen tells you how upset she is for getting a “C” on her science project and another girl who didn’t put in much effort got an “A”. You might say, “So what I’m hearing you say is that you are upset because you got a “C” despite your efforts and someone who doesn’t try as hard as you, got an “A?”

When you restate, it makes you know if you really heard what was said by him or her. And if you didn’t, your teen can always speak again.

7. Pay Attention to their Actions

Being a good listener also involves listening to their actions. Are they acting differently? Too moody, quiet, talkative, or overly secretive? Which is not their normal behaviour. Do they bark at their siblings or even you when you speak to them? Do they just want to be alone, most of the time? Be alert to any sudden odd or changed behaviour and respond accordingly.

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8. Inquire for Feedback

Don’t conclude you’re a good listener without getting feedback. Ask your teen. Try not to overreact and become defensive if they bluntly tell you “No”. Find out their reasons in a calm and mature manner. This would require you to listen, again.

In conclusion, teens say:

  • When I tell you something difficult or share my feelings with you, and you give me an immediate negative response you push me away.
  • When you react immediately without giving me the opportunity to explain further, you push me away.
    It means you have not considered my feelings.
  • Your reactions make me stay away and think twice about coming to you next time. I will rather talk to someone else or no one at all.

What parents should know…

  • When your teens try to talk to you, it’s a big deal for them!
  • Don’t dismiss them.
  • Don’t react negatively without hearing them out.
  • Don’t jump down on them.

One wrong reaction can make them close the doors of communication and that could be disastrous, especially when they are having serious problems.

So, no matter how challenging it may seem, make up your mind to be a good listener to your teen(s). All the best.

Efe Lisa Ifezuo

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Efe Lisa Ifezuo
Graduate of English. Content writer, author, blogger, Relationship/Teen counselor and Business Owner at Coinscribes (A General Transcription, content/fictional writing Service).

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