Teen Doesn't Listen
How do I get my teen to listen to me. I am fed up with his messy room and not
helping out around the house. Whenever I ask that he helps out, all I get is
flack. I've tried taking privileges away and that doesn't work. What should I
Welcome to life with an adolescent. Firstly, remember they are in the
developmental stage of individuation/separation. In other words, they want to be
anything else but like their parents. The more you push in one direction, they
are likely to look to go in another direction. Yes, I know they are looking to
separate and be their own boss, while all the time seeking you to support them,
but this is the tension that is adolescence.
With regard to managing behaviour and whereas with younger children you can get
away with telling them what to do, with teens you can only hope to influence
In order to have any influence or sway with your teen son or daughter, you first
must have some semblance of a relationship. Typically after days, weeks or even
months of tension or fighting, the relationship is strained and the teen will
only expect your hostilities. In view of expecting hostilities, your teen will
be on guard for the fight and definitely will not be open to your wisdom,
counsel or influence.
Step back from the fight and re-establish the relationship first and you the
parent must take this first step. Being older and wiser, you need to possess the
maturity to take this step. Your son or daughter the younger, likely does not
yet possess this kind of maturity and can only gain it through your role model.
Re-establishing the relationship doesn't mean sucking up or accepting
inappropriate behaviour. It really means concentrating however on those
behaviours and times where your son or daughter is reasonable or at least not
disruptive. At these moments, say a kind word and walk away. The next
opportunity, say a kind word, give a pat on the shoulder and then walk away and
the following opportunity again say a kind word and ask how your son or daughter
is doing - non-judgementally. Regardless of what he or she says, do not offer
advice or solutions. Just listen. When your son or daughter stops talking tell
them it is nice to hear their voice and let them know you care then walk away
again. Slowly, over a matter of a few days, you can rebuild rapport.
Once rapport is established, you can share a concern or two with your teen, but
without telling them what to do. You will require the patience of biblical
proportion and again, this is where your maturity comes in. Eventually your son
or daughter will make a better decision or show a sign of more reasonable
behaviour. When this occurs, let your teen know you are appreciative. This will
reinforce their improved behaviour and increase the likelihood of other more
reasonable behaviour down the line.
Lastly, you didn't get into this predicament overnight, so it will take effort
on your part and you changing your approach first, before your teen responds. In
the meantime when you still want to rip out your own hair from frustration, talk
with your partner, friend, neighbour, minister or counsellor. You need to stay
on track with positive behaviour if you ever hope to be a good influence in the
life of your child.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario,
Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child
relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations,
social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a
Section 112 (social work) report.
Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters.
Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques
information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane,
you the parent of new teen driver? Check
out this teen safe driving program: www.ipromiseprogram.com