How to Talk With Teenagers ~ What Teens Don't Need to Know
Are you wasting your breath because your kids aren't listening? Are you telling your teenagers things you'll later regret?
There are lots of things teenagers don't need to know. Concentrate your efforts on helping your teenager prepare for a successful adult life.
Providing guidance, encouragement and appropriate financial information to a teenager is not as hard as you might think.
Teenagers don't need to know how many partners you had before meeting their mom or dad ... or how many you've had since.
If you want to talk about the good old days and the raunchy fun you had, talk to someone your own age.
Your teenager wants - and needs - to respect you. You are supposed to be a good role model. Don't drop the bar so low that being promiscuous seems to be acceptable.
Don't tell your personal tales to them, or in front of them - and be careful that your confidant is not likely to tell their own children who in turn will tell yours.
Teenagers like to think they're doing something you didn't.
One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make is challenging their teenager to attempt activities even more brazen, more risqué or more dangerous than their parent's teenage pranks.
Don't boast about how much alcohol you drank when you were 14, or how you and your mates stole a car and crashed it when you were 15, or how many days you skipped school when you were 16. There will be plenty of time when they are adults to reflect on your own childhood adventures and misdemeanours.
Instead, inspire your teenager to get a job like you did (or didn't), save for a car like you did (or didn't), or travel the world. Give them financial goals at an early age, and offer to help them come up with a plan to achieve them ... but make it unique and individual, not just a replica of how you made money when you were young.
Teenagers appreciate being viewed as unique. Very few teens enjoying walking in their parent's footsteps. Help them create their own path to financial independence.
The Teenager's Safety Deposit Box
Teens don't need to hear you suspect them of taking drugs.
Visiting a home shared by teenagers recently, I spotted a Bible on a table. No surprises to discover the Bible had been hollowed out. I never chopped up a Bible but my friends and I spent many hours hollowing out other books.
I still have a hollow book in which I store jewelry and spare cash.
Some stores sell fake plastic books with lockable inserts requiring a key. Positioned appropriately on a book shelf, among many other publications of a similar size, a book is a perfect hiding space.
If your teenager has a hollow book, don't instantly assume they intend to hide drugs.
When your child proudly shows you their creation (it is surprising how many fail to realize they'll want to hide things from you in it), congratulate them on their ingenuity and suggest they use it to store their cash and valuables.
Then occasionally keep an eye on what is stored in it. Accusing a teenager of drug use when they are not guilty is a mistake you're likely to regret.
A far more positive outcome can be reached if you help them focus on what they'll need to do to earn cash to store in their special hiding place ... and dream of how much cash it would actually hold ... and how long they'd have to work to make that kind of money.
Teenagers don't need you to tell them to clean up their room
Teenagers clean their rooms when they feel like it. They don't need to know you don't like their mess, or how you had to tidy your room every day when you were a kid. Save your breath.
The quickest way to change a teenager's attitude towards cleaning their room is to wait until they really want some new gadget or bedroom accessory and say, "I would have bought you one of those if you had somewhere to put it, but your bedroom is a bombsite."
Don't buy it on the promise of a tidy room. Negotiate buying it when their room has been tidy for a week. Or a month if the gadget is expensive.
Of course if you are a parent who has been picking up after your child since they were tiny instead of expecting a tidy room before the 8-year-old received pocket money or a treat, you are going to find this challenge more difficult than others.
Don't tell your teenager they look lovely if they don't.
Okay, this is a tough one.
What your teenager wears is likely to upset you at some time or other. For the most part, we need to respect their right to follow fashions and express their personal taste.
But occasionally it will be necessary to say, "No. You are not leaving the house dressed like that." Then explain why. Start setting rules and guidelines when they're 13. Don't wait until they are 16 to put your foot down for the first time. The battle just becomes harder as they grow older.
My biggest tip when it comes to fashion rules with a teenager is to accompany your teen when they go clothes shopping. Don't just hand them cash and set them free.
It's not all about money, but budgeting and managing cash does enter the equation. "I'd like it if it was $9, but I don't think it is worth $29."
Similarly, you can focus on the waste of money when your child suggests purchasing an item you don't approve of: "I'm not going to let you spend $30 on something you're never going to be allowed to wear outside the house. Choose something you'll get value from."
When the time comes that your teenager is spending their own hard-earned cash on fashion items, they will hopefully have adopted the same approach to decision making. Sometimes you'll have to bite your tongue and compliment them on an item you wouldn't have chosen.
But please, never tell your teenager they look lovely in an outfit that looks like this ...
Teens don't need to know all about your debts or your assets.
Teens don't need to know how much money you do or don't have in the bank.
If you are having financial problems, talk to a financial advisor. Don't burden your children with the specifics of your financial situation. If you can't afford something, tell them you can't afford it - or just say 'no'.
Kids need to learn about saving money and the importance of having cash available for unexpected bills or expenses, for instance if your pet is injured and you need to pay the vet.
However they don't need to be raised in an environment where they are too scared of bankruptcy to enjoy an ice-cream on a hot day. Just buy a cheap ice-cream, not the most expensive one.
Let your child enjoy the occasional treat. You are creating childhood memories - so let some of them just be 'good times' without a lecture on what you can't afford.
Did your parents give good financial advice?
How would you rate the quality of advice you received as a teenager?
Don't tell your teenager you used to skip school.
If your young teen speaks rudely about kids who skip class, be thankful. The dumbest mistake you could make would be to defend the truants and say you did the same thing.
As a teenager you might have considered school a waste of time, but as a parent you should be encouraging your child to go to class and learn as much as they can. Speak about your knowledge of peers who failed at school because of poor attitude, and encourage your teenager not to make the same mistake.
The time to mention your own truancy is if they genuinely hate school and have been caught wagging. At that point, you could talk about your personal experience and offer possible solutions to the problem.
Change schools? Change subjects? Change of attitude?
Or perhaps leave school and get a job.
Teenage Years Don't Last Forever
Don't tell your teen you were the fastest, smartest, brightest, biggest at everything when you were at school.
Too many parents set their children up to feel like failures.
Encourage your child to try their hardest ... without feeling the need to match your own performance.
If your child believes you were the best at everything, they are likely to feel guilty about disappointing you when they don't come first in every race or exam. Some kids won't even bother trying if they fear they can't match your expectation.
Quite frankly, if anyone should feel guilty in this situation, it should be the parent. Shame on you if you don't let your child focus on their own personal best, instead of yours.
This applies to their financial endeavors as well.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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