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What Are the Causes of Miscommunication With Teens?

by Damon Verial

As far as language development goes, parents might consider the teen years as being a regression. It is natural for parents to experience previously un-encountered problems while communicating with their children in the teen years. These problems arise from the simple fact that your child is now a teen.

Different Levels of Communication

What’s logical to a parent is often illogical to a teen. The primary reason is often experience. While you’ve been through many experiences your teen is going through and is likely to know what actions are helpful and what actions are damaging, teens often are not receptive to adult advice. They might believe their world is different from your world and that your solutions either don’t apply or only worked in the past. So beginning a discussion by giving your teen advice will often lead to troubled communication. Avoid dispensing unsolicited advice to your teen as a way to begin a conversation, no matter how much you feel she needs that advice.

Assumptions

One of the main barriers to smooth communication between parent and child is the assumptions each party has toward the other. Past conflicts in which parents labeled their teens with certain names, for example, might cause teens to think their parents are looking down upon them. For instance, if you have responded to your teen who’s constantly asking you for an increase in allowance or for new clothes by labeling her as “ungrateful” or “greedy,” she have the impression that you’re being antagonistic. It is a tendency for teens to engage in such a mental power struggle, and the natural result could be for your teen to label you as “stingy” or “selfish.” When coming into a conflict, you two might already be labeling each other based on past assumptions, which stifles the ability to communicate and resolve a given issue. Psychologist John Gottman recommends in his book, “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child,” that parents avoid using labels and name-calling when there’s conflict. Instead, focus on the facts of the specific circumstance in objective terms.

Underestimating Maturity

It’s natural for people to believe that what worked in the past works now. For parents, the well-received opinions and topic starters that worked in the tween years and earlier might be built into your habitual way of talking with your kids. But children’s attitudes toward almost everything change when they reach their teen years. Thinking that your teen’s goals, preferences and principles are the same now as they were in the past is a misstep that can cause a communication shutdown. When parents understand and accept that their teens will undergo radical changes in personality, they might find it easier to reach their kids.

Language Barriers

Sometimes when you talk to your teen, you might find your language differs to a surprising extent. University of Washington language and communication professor Crispin Thurlow mentions in his book, “Talking Adolescence,” that teens formulate language differently as an attempt to separate themselves from the adult world. A parent’s desperate attempts to get her teen to state what he means clearly often fails because teens wish to speak differently from their parents. In a sense, this type of miscommunication is intentional, and is a way of the teen telling his parents “you can’t understand.”

About the Author

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.

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