How to talk so your kids hear you

How To Talk With Your Teen When You Don’t See Eye-To-Eye

Do Your Kids Accuse You Of Not Listening, Even When You Are?

Your teen tells you that they are the only one who has a curfew. EVERYONE else can stay out as late as they’d like. It’s embarrassing to leave the party early and no one wants to sleep at your house because of the curfew.

You remained calm, even though these repeated points make your blood boil. You listened empathetically as they were talking with you. Maybe you even shared that you had an “overprotective” parent yourself but now as an adult you see that “grandma” just had your “best interests at heart.” You mirrored back your teen’s feelings and frustrations. And then you told them that the curfew stands.

Your teen’s responded to all of your impressive parenting skills by saying that you “never listen.” This is so incredibly frustrating for many parents.

Listening Does Not Mean Saying What Your Child Wants To Hear

Oftentimes the breakdown in communication has less to do with active listening skills and more to do with the fact that your role as a parent is to make decisions that are in the best interest of your child. Even when these decisions go against your child’s current expressed interest.

Our brains are best stimulated by goal directed behavior. So in the above example of the teen: Getting an extended curfew. This means that the brain will tune out any information that does not move your teen in the direction of that goal.

How To Get Your Teen To Hear You When You Are Listening

If you are actively listening and reflecting back your child’s thoughts and feelings, you are ahead of the game. Those are the first two steps of the 3 Steps Of Limit Setting which I wrote about in this article.

The third step in active listening involves “setting alternative acceptable behaviors.” You want to identify the basic need your child is trying to meet with their “goal-directed behavior.” Look at these needs and help your child meet them in a way that is in line with your parenting decisions.

Alternative Acceptable Behaviors In Action

  • Example 1:
    • Problem: Your teen want’s to walk home from a party late at night and you don’t feel that this is safe.
    • Your Teen’s Need: Reduce the embarrassment of having parents 😉
    • Alternative Solution: Could you compromise by waiting in the car and texting them when you arrive rather than “making a scene” at the door?
  • Example 2:
    • Problem: Your teen is constantly fighting you about curfew.
    • Your Teen’s Need: Socialization
    • Alternative Solution: Could you help your teen make social arrangements for different hours or at other locations that you are more comfortable with? Perhaps you can host gatherings at your house. Another option may be to keep the curfew but allow for extended phone privileges to “keep the party going” in the safety of your home.
  • Example 3:
    • Problem: Your older teen is pushing boundaries and wants more control over their life.
    • Your Teen’s Need: It’s normal (and developmentally appropriate) for teens to want more independence with each passing year.
    • Alternative Solution: Determine a game plan of successive steps that can be taken so that your teen has more control over their life. Find ways to allow them to spread their wings as they approach leaving the nest by slowly extending your limits as your teen proves that they can be responsible independent of your control.

By meeting these underlying needs, you can come up with compromises that allows your teen to feel heard and validated even when you aren’t going to be giving in to their demands!

Jamie Dana

Jamie Dana

Jamie Dana, MC, LPC, helps teens and adults overcome mental roadblocks and achieve their goals to live an elevated life. Specialties include research-based interventions to address stress and anxiety, trauma, self-esteem, eating issues and struggles of the gifted and high-achieving population. For more information about her techniques, services and additional resources to help you succeed, check her out at or follow us on Facebook and Instagram. You can also Contact her to schedule an initial appointment today