Trying to get your teen to listen to you is a little like teaching a pig to sing: It frustrates you and annoys the pig! Actually, it isn’t quite that bad, and there are some things you can do to increase the communication with your adolescent. This article will help you with the skills you need to reconnect with your teen so that life and family can move on.

Understanding “normal.” The first thing to realize is that adolescents are actually going through a normal and expected developmental phase that influences an “I’m not listening” stance. Adolescence is that stage in which the teen has the task of taking what he has learned from his parents and begins questioning and challenging. He is rethinking everything in life, including values, culture, relationships and his own identity. This rethinking time allows him to form a solid sense of who he is and what he believes so that as an adult, he is prepared to meet the demands of grownup reality. At the same time, a second thing is he is keenly interested in his peers and social settings. Culture and peer friends are his new world and an exciting vista. Unfortunately, you are not quite as fascinating to him as they are. It’s because of these two parallel processes that your teen does not attend to your opinions and requests as he used to. It’s why the parent who had the full listening and attention of her 10-year-old wonders why she is chopped liver. But there are some helpful things that will make a difference.

Realize your kid needs you. Remember that she is still not a fully formed adult. She is not ready for life. She needs your love, support and guidance as she moves into the grownup world. Your teen probably does not think she needs you. She is cocky and self-assured beyond all reality. But deep inside her, part of her is afraid of the larger world and is insecure in her ability to face life’s challenges. So don’t be put off or discouraged by how she dismisses your statements. She is fighting you, but she needs you. It is called an “approach-avoidance” conflict, and she is doing both with you. Don’t give up trying to communicate. You’re the only parents she has.

Require his full attention. Whether the problem is taking out the garbage, doing homework, a bad attitude or a drug problem, if you find that your kid is not listening to your concern, your house rules and directives, first get him to focus on the conversation. Say something like “Spencer, I really need your full attention on this. It’s very important, and I need for you to stop what you’re doing now.”  That certainly means texting, phone calls, email, video, TV and music. He may roll his eyes and test you a few times, but keep insisting on this.

Use consequences if necessary. If he really pushes back hard and turns up the music or continues texting, gets argumentative or even walks away from you, you have to turn up the heat yourself a bit. That is what consequences are about. When reasonable and loving words aren’t working, actions help bring results. Tell him that you will be removing what he is engaged in (phone, TV, computer, etc.) if he will not talk. This may cause an escalation of attitude, but better now than later.

Make the issue the issue. Once you have her attention, tell her that you see the problem and you want to solve it. Say something like, “Beth, I love you and I want you to be happy and healthy. But it is often really hard to get your attention and communicate with you. You have a pattern of arguing, seeing me as the bad guy, shutting me out, withdrawing (pick whatever the pattern is). I want a relationship, and this isn’t working. From now on, when I need to really talk back and forth, I want you to cooperate with me. If you do, we are OK. If you don’t, I’ll have to continue consequences, which I don’t want. But you can choose which path we take.”

Most teens will begin communicating better when you are patient but still direct about this. If things don’t get better, check out my book “Boundaries with Teens” for more tips. And if you need to talk to a specialist personally about this challenge, contact Compass Rose Academy as well. Best to you and your parenting!