The truth is, no one likes to be told what to do. One of my teachers used to say “don’t advise unless someone asks you for it.” To enjoy and thrive in any relationship, unless you are a project leader or a parent, do you really need to tell others what to do?
Children surely are the project of their parents and need to be told, yet they hate listening at times. So, how do you give advice to a teenager in a way that will compel them to actually listen to you?
Before we go any further, the most important thing to note is that you are the elder in the equation and you have to keep your dignity and sanity at all times. Good luck!
What does it mean to connect with a teenager?
The first thing to remember is to know the teenager you are talking to. Just knowing someone’s name and your relation to them isn’t good enough.
You have to understand the teenager you are working with. When you love someone so much, at times you might get desperate and do things that you think are for their best but actually either push them away physically or emotionally — and might even hurt them.
You have to know the person well. You have to get how they feel and what they need. If they ask for space, give it to them. If they ask for help, give it to them.
I once heard my Kumu Hula (teacher of Hula) say when you have a child, your life stops and your child's life begins. In the western culture, it might seem like going overboard with your parenting, but it is not.
Exert authority without being authoritarian.
It's a fine line and you must find the balance between authority and authoritarianism. Children raised by authoritarian parents constantly drown in self-doubts. If simply you respect yourself and keep your cool, your teenager will always look forward to hanging out with you. When you cross their mind, they are happy that you are in their life.
You have to meet them where they are.
When you speak to a teenager from your perspective, they might feel small, unintelligent and disrespected.
Instead of telling them what to do, ask them what they want to do. Also, instead of saying “do it!” say “let's do it!” and get involved.
Talk to your teenager when they are happy and present, rather than accosting them when you have time. Make time for them every day. Working around their schedule and easing yourself in with your needs makes them more open to listening and following through.
You have two ears and one mouth so listen more than speak when you are with your teenager. If they choose to check out, they can and will do it in less than three seconds. They could be physically present but emotionally not.
Talking to a teenager when they have checked out is futile. It's a waste of your breath, time, emotion and energy.
How can you communicate with your teenager and feel heard?
There's a distinct difference between conversation, communication and connection. A connection aims to get them to listen to you and buy into your suggestions.
It can be as dry as discussing politics, religion or even the weather. A lot of noise gets lost in the wind.
When you speak, you must exhale, and when you exhale you expend your life force through your breath.
If you had a healthy relationship with your child in their preteen years, then it will pay dividends during their teenage years. It won't be as easy as it used to be, but it's still better than if you were not present for your child when they were growing up.
Yet, all is not lost if you were busy working and didn't have as much time as you wanted for your children when they were in elementary school. It's never too late!
When and how can you give a teenager advice?
Start making time for your teenager. Take time off from work, set aside all social obligations, and turn off electronics. Go out with your child for lunch or a late-afternoon tea. Do it now and do it often.
Teenagers don't like surprises no matter how pleasant they are. They always have plans even if it is all in their mind.
When a teenager is well-rested and well-fed, they are more likely to be open to whatever you have to say.
Keep your doors open for your teenager to walk in any time and ask you anything. Don't have taboo topics. Your teenager will find answers on their own if they don't get them from you. Would you rather they heard it from you or another teenager outside, or worse yet, another adult stranger?
Stay humble and don't pretend to know everything!
When your teenager asks you something and you don't know what to say, “let me get back to you” is the last thing you should say. Usually, if you are not the one with the answer they'll go find it somewhere else. Instead, say “let's find it out together.”
When you let them know that you don't have all the answers but are willing to look for them, you show your humility and eagerness to learn. You also let them know that you are on their team and willing to work with them through everything.
At times, even if you have the answer, say “this is what I know but let’s find out what else is out there. I would love to learn too.”
These are just pointers. You are a loving, kind and caring person, so make your time together with your teenager your own. They should never feel that you are giving them any advice unless they ask for it. Even when they ask for it, say a few things and together you can come up with common ideas to fill in the gaps.
Finally, stories always help. Tell them how it was for you when you were growing up. This is the greatest bonding activity between any adult and a teenager.
Teenagers are adults in the making, and like most adults, teenagers most definitely don't like to be told what to do or think. Therefore, instead of forcing advice on them, ask them what they would like to hear or do.
Make your conversation more about listening than about telling. Instead of preaching, let it be about solution finding, and problem-solving.
Keya Murthy, M.S., works as a Clinical Hypnotherapist, Spiritual Life Coach, and Energy Medicine Practitioner at the Ventura Healing Center.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.com.