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Before a confrontation with your teenager, take the time to think..."has screaming and yelling worked?". We all know the answer, No. Why not? A teenager can shut down and turn off his hearing faster than anything else he does. He knows he did wrong. Ask him to explain. A deep breath and conversation is worth a thousand yelled words. Yelling is showing your anger, talking is showing your love and concern. Prepare yourself to be calm towards his response. The idea is to let him slowly become comfortable in giving you the truth. This is the only way you will ever truly learn about your child, when he tells you what is in his heart and mind, his confusion about life, his fears, his hopes.
Ask and listen. Ask questions, don't drill. Explain that you want to know about the situation and why it happened and that you hope that he can understand your fears about how the behavior may impact his life and those around him. If you are too upset to start the conversation, tell him the truth, you are upset and need a minute before you can talk. Otherwise they will only see the anger in your eyes and assume that the conversation is a pretext to gather more information to provide rationale for a punishment.
If you are not absolutely sure, clarify both what you and what your teenager have said and meant. They are developing their own language and what may have meant one thing in your day now means the opposite. Besides, face it, at first they are not sure about telling you everything. To them the least amount of information means the least amount of repercussions. It takes time for them to realize that the conversation is about mutual understanding. There is no magic in the first conversations. It is you learning how to question without accusing and the teenager learning how much he can tell his parents safely. Also, he may not honestly not know why he did it. The teen aged years are just as troubling for the teen as for the parent.
Talking means nothing if there is no understanding derived from it. It becomes just what teenagers fear it will be, a lecture about them. If confused about something, choose your words carefully, an "I honestly don't understand you" probably won't work. Ask about a specific part of what was said. And don't become discouraged if you honestly still don't understand your teenager's point of view. They don't understand your point of view either and more than likely, their's. The point is to work toward a common language and trust that will enable both of you to understand the other and ease the tension that develops between all teenagers and their parents.
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