Giving advice to a teenager is very easy and smooth; making the teenager to take that advice is another story altogether. It’s not only a case of the advice ‘falling on deaf ears’, most of the time teenager seems to make it deliberately out of their way to do the exact opposite, that’s when you know that we’ve got a big problem. So how do you go about giving teenage advice?
The short answer to this question is “don’t”. Now at first glance this almost certainly sounds unreasonable, after all parents have more experience of life and most would concur that a parent’s job is to pass this experience onto their children.
But the problem with providing advice is that it’s really just a way of maintaining control. We repeatedly cover it up by saying we know what’s best in the situation, we have the skills and knowledge, but in reality what we’re saying is what we want to happen, this is what we want you to do.
Adolescence is a time for education to self-manage, to take accountability for yourself and your actions. It’s an essential development if your teenager is to become a well-adjusted, fully functioning adult ready for the 21st century. And a fundamental element of the process is handing over control to your teen.
For most parents this is a really terrifying thought. They’re worried over what will happen if they do, that if they give up some control it will mean they lose all control. They’re afraid about what their teen will do, what happens if they get it wrong, they feel a need to safeguard their teen.
Firstly, handing over control at this period is more about handing over accountability and responsibility on how to do something, not handing over total control. It’s about letting your teen have an involvement in how to solve a particular problem, it’s about teaching them problem solving skills. If you always provide the solution on the problems, how will they ever learn to do it for themselves?
Secondly, your teenager is very likely to get it ‘wrong’, to make mistakes and what is wrong about that? You’re training them how to self-correct their mistake, just as they did when they first learned to ride a bike and kept falling off. Making mistakes is a natural way of the learning process; more learning arrives from making mistakes than comes from getting it ‘right’. How much does it really matter if they don’t get it ‘right’ first time or select the ‘best’ substitute?
And finally, is your solution the ‘best’? Please be reminded that our children are different to us when thinking about a solution to a problem. The solution adopted may be the best one for us, but is it the best one for your teenager?
Giving advice by telling teens what to do is only one way of passing on a parent’s knowledge and experience, there are other ways of achieving the same results and with a higher likelihood of success. And it’s how you pass on that bountiful experience that makes the difference.
How to Get Your Point Across
- Ask before you provide. Always ask your teen if they want your opinion before you start to giving it. If they say, “yes please” then go ahead and give your counsel, if they say “no” respect their decision and keep silent.
- Question their intent. If your teen has refused advice, ask them specific questions about how they’re going to deal with the situation. Asking questions about smaller ‘parts’ of the problem is a way to at least get your teen to think about what’s involved.
- Provide Information instead. Leading your teen to a source of information that is neutral allows your teen to access these information without having to agree to your point of view.
- Give your teenager time. Just because your teen hasn’t given you an immediate answer to your question doesn’t mean they’re ignoring your inquiry. Give them time to go away and think about the answers of our questions.
- Highlight their qualities. Reminding teens of their strengths will focus their minds on selecting options that make the best of them. Focusing on their weaknesses will more likely that they will lose confidence in doing anything.
- Listen to your teenager. Often just listening to your teen without interrupting will show you that you don’t even need to give advice; your teen already has a solution of their problem.
AUTHOR: Carol Shepley