Even the most communicative of parents can be stopped in their tracks by the dreaded silent treatment. When your teenage daughter shuts down all communication, except for a surly expression, it can be tempting to punish or reciprocate. It's important, though, to remember that the silent treatment is a mechanism by which your teen gains control over a situation she dislikes. By letting her know that you're not playing her game, she'll be more likely to come to you when she's ready to talk.
Send the Right Message
Your teen uses the silent treatment to control you, so you first need to send a clear message that her behavior won't work, suggests EmpoweringParents.com. Let her know that you understand what she's trying to do and why it won't work, such as "I know you want to stay out late on Saturday, but not speaking to me won't help your cause. Let me know when you're willing to talk about it, otherwise you won't be going at all." This sends the message that you're still in control of the situation and the ball is in your daughter's court.
Offer a Consequence
Your teen needs to know that the silent treatment is an unacceptable way to behave, and therefore, requires a consequence. If your teen is texting while giving you the cold shoulder, you could try, "I know you're mad at me right now, but it's not fair to continue talking to your friends when you won't talk to me. No cell phone privileges until you're ready to communicate." Your teen will see that the silent treatment isn't only ineffective, but that it also results in negative consequences.
It's all too easy to come down to your teen's less mature level and play the silent treatment game with her. After all, you're likely hurt and may not feel like communicating. But giving your daughter the silent treatment only damages your relationship by making her feel unheard and insecure. While it might be a hard pill to swallow, keep calm, and stay open to communication when your teen is ready to talk.
The silent treatment stops when your teen realizes that it doesn't work, after which, she'll likely be ready to talk. Be open when she wants to communicate and willing to hear her out before making a decision rather than shutting her out completely. If your teen really makes a good case for lengthening her curfew, talk about the pros and cons and make a decision together, tacking on another 30 minutes, perhaps. By being open to the conversation, you show your teen that the best way to get what she wants is through intelligent communication -- not the silent treatment.
- EmpoweringParents.com: Does Your Child Give You the Silent Treatment? 6 Rules for Getting Kids to Talk
- I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You!: A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict; Roni Cohen-Sandler, et al.
- Psychology Today: Promoting Empathy With Your Teen
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images