Conversation with your teen turned into a battle field? Try these expert tips
By Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County

Little girl screaming

We’ve all been there. A casual conversation with your teen somehow goes haywire – and all of the sudden you find yourself in a foot-stomping, door-slamming, yelling match. What happened, you wonder, to your sweet child? Where do it all go wrong?

It’s normal for teens to pull away from, and push against, parents. It’s how they learn about the world – and themselves. But that doesn’t mean that as a parent you give up trying to connect. While it may be hard to tell, this is the time they need you the most.

So take a deep breath and try these practical, expert tips on connecting with your teen:

Watch your tone: Tone of voice can be crucial in the parent/teen dynamic, especially when confronting defiance. A teen’s tone, such as frustration and even silence, can push a parent to react. In comparison, children are sensitive to a parent’s tone and sometimes hypersensitive. What a parent considers a firm tone can be interpreted by a teen as yelling. Yelling or lecturing can make them stop listening.

Stick to the goals: Before initiating a conversation with your teen, have a goal or information to relate. Teenagers can throw a conversation off track. So clearly state what you want your teen to know and keep the topic on course.

Show appreciation and praise: Parents can never underestimate the value of this when motivating their child. Acknowledge their accomplishments along the way. When you evaluate their progress and critique their work, start with sincere compliments before easing into criticism. Above all, let them know you love them.

Consider whether they've experienced a traumatic event: Children who've experienced a death in the family, suffered abuse or neglect, are dealing with serious issues at home or other traumatic experiences may act and react in unexpected ways.

If you're concerned that your child's behavior may be caused by a trauma of some kind, you can seek help by calling the following local organizations:

Center for Family Services (Teen Triple P):561-616-1222

Parent-Child Center (Teen Triple P):561-841-3500

Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County: 561-801-4357

Children's Behavioral Health Collaborative: 561-366-9400


Marie Boswell, Delinquency Prevention specialist, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Office of Prevention and Victim Services

Barbara Gerlock, chair of Circuit 15 Juvenile Justice Advisory Board


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