Teen Won’t Listen – A Mother’s Top Tips

Tara Cunningham Motivation

Parenting is difficult at the best of times but more often than not every teenage at some stage decides that they know everything and no longer need to listen. Here’s how we got through the trying times.

Your teen won’t listen. What to do? In order to solve any problem we must firstly find the root of the problem. Hopefully then we can go about getting to a more positive place.

1. Why are they not listening

2. Is something else going on

3. Are they socialising / in a club

4. Are they going through a growth spurt?

5. How to talk to them

If we can always be the adult and try and see things from the teen perspective, then hopefully you will get back to a more harmonious household. This is how we got back on track.

Why are they not listening?

There are many reasons why your teen may not be listening. They have so many pressures in their lives that as parents we find this difficult to process.

We never had social media, 24hrs/day when we were growing up. It’s hard to be on parade all the time. And even if its not social media, it’s their peers in class. Every moment or comment being analyzed.

One wrong phrase and suddenly you’re on the wrong side of the schoolyard. And it’s so hard to get back. As if that is not enough they then have to deal with growing up and all the feelings of change in their adolescent lives.

So when I look at my teenage boy and ask him how his day went, and I get a mumble or sometimes nothing back, I have to bite my tongue and think of a different way to ask it. But the most important thing I need to remember is that I can’t give up on him.

Our children always need to know that we are there for them no matter what. It can be frustrating when you pick them up from school or a day out and all you want to know is how was it? Or what’s new today? And you get nothing! The earphones don’t even come out of the ears. Sometimes we get a grunt but usually not!

But the odd occasion they get in to the car and you get a ‘School was ok’ or ‘We did something cool today’. These are the moments we live for.

They may be few and far between but they show that we still have the ability to engage with them. (Even if we don’t understand what they are talking about, which for me is alot of the time!)

But, is there something else going on?

We have to be mindful of everything they are experiencing. There is a difference between a vacant look like we just spoke a foreign language to a child that has become withdrawn. I found that if I could keep conversation going (which is tricky!) then if an issue arose, either my son or daughter felt ok to come tell me a problem. It’s hard to stay calm, or not to judge but if your kid has enough trust in you to share a problem or situation it’s important to show support above everything else.

Lots of teens drop out of sports and clubs, especially girls. If at all possible to keep them involved it will prove invaluable for their confidence. The more confident your teen is, the more engaged they will be in new situations.

Are they socialising? / In a club?

Good communication comes from interacting with all sorts of different people. As I say, we have a girl and a boy. Our girl is and always has been a book worm. She likes to mix with people but is very comfortable with her own company.

Our boy on the other hand is very social. He is an avid archer and so over the last couple of years has become somewhat of a social butterfly at competitions. The sport attracts all ages and so he could be standing beside someone at a competition that is his own age or someone twice his age.

They all have a common interest and so it is easy to converse. If they are comfortable in their own skin they tend to be more engaged in all aspects of their lives. I find if one of his shoots has gone well he really wants to talk about it.

However, we are also at the age now where he doesn’t want his mum there with him, which is difficult for me but I understand he wants to be his own person and not be on the apron strings of his mother. 

It may not be a huge problem. It might seem trivial to you but if it’s causing your child to be withdrawn then the problem is big enough to give it some air. A problem shared is a problem halved.

The biggest step is getting them to tell you what’s wrong. They could be getting a hard time at school, about their appearance, from how tall or small they are, their skin issues, their dress sense. No matter what it is, if it’s causing them anguish then they need support.

If there is a quick fix then try and initiate that but obviously you can’t alter their height or cure their teenage skin but you can ensure that they know you’ve got their back and that it does get easier as time goes by.

If they don’t feel comfortable talking to you (which is also understandable, not all things can be discussed with your mom), it might be something more delicate, about first love, be it girl or boy. There’s sure to be someone that they click with, an older sibling, an aunt/ uncle. Open channels of communication are key.

Non judgmental conversations will lead to more trust and ultimately your teen opening up fully to you, or someone close to you.

Lots of teens drop out of sports and clubs, especially girls. If at all possible to keep them involved it will prove invaluable for their confidence. The more confident your teen is, the more engaged they will be in new situations.

Believe in yourself

Are they going through a growth spurt?

Teens are still very much growing. Our son seems to have grown about 2ft in the last couple of months (probably a slight exaggeration!)

But every time he stands beside me he seems taller. Growing is a big change to your teens body. The most notable difference is that you teen is exhausted! All the time!

And who could blame them. Their whole being is focusing on growth and so they’re just not fully in the room, so to speak. Throw a few hormones into the mix and its hardly surprising they can’t string a sentence together.

So we have to try and take a step back, take a breath and put yourself in their very self aware shoes.

How to talk to them

It’s hard to get on the same wavelength as your teen. If you try to be too cool then they think you are lame. but you must try and understand some of their dialect.

It does sometimes feel like they are speaking a different language and just when you have a couple of words in the bag they all change!

We weren’t always adults! There was a time when we looked at our own parents and thought ‘Really?’ But we got a little maturity about us and realized our our parents knew more than we thought and had a few good ideas and some pretty good advice.

So what is the key to talking to your teen. I have found that I must play along with their lingo but only use it jokingly. Don’t comment directly on any of their social media, you will definitely embarrass them in front of their peers.

Perhaps casually discuss day to day events. If I look too eager to discuss something it will be shut down immediately. There is a lot of skill to be learned in talking to your teen.

The most important lesson I have learned is that you are their parent and not their friend. There must be certain guidelines in place.

They must feel they can have their own space and that we are not prying or being nosy, but that we are just interested. Trust is everything. If my children think I trust them, they want to share.

Before you know it, the words will be flowing and your teen will actually be listening. Be patient. Everything comes to those who wait.

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Mum, Graphic designer, Website owner, Writer at Tweentotwenty | Website

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort.
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