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How to talk with teenagers | What Teens Don't Need to Know

Updated on January 11, 2015
LongTimeMother profile image

With her children's ages spanning 22 years, LongTimeMother has 40 years experience in parenting - including home schooling and foster care.

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

Yes, the hollow book in your teenager's room might be used to hide drugs. But it could just as easily conceal money and other valuables. It is a teenager's personal safety deposit box. :)
Yes, the hollow book in your teenager's room might be used to hide drugs. But it could just as easily conceal money and other valuables. It is a teenager's personal safety deposit box. :) | Source

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 ...

The rest of the outfit looked equally inappropriate on this particular teenager. Why didn't someone in her family take photos before she left home so she could see how she looked? Teenagers need guidance. Sadly, this one didn't get it.
The rest of the outfit looked equally inappropriate on this particular teenager. Why didn't someone in her family take photos before she left home so she could see how she looked? Teenagers need guidance. Sadly, this one didn't get it. | Source

Did your parents give good financial advice?

How would you rate the quality of advice you received as a teenager?

See results

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.


Talented Teenagers

If your artistic teenager wants to start making small stained-glass decorations to sell for pocket money, encourage them. There's good money to be made when they progress to making windows. Don't discourage creative thought for generating cash. :)
If your artistic teenager wants to start making small stained-glass decorations to sell for pocket money, encourage them. There's good money to be made when they progress to making windows. Don't discourage creative thought for generating cash. :) | Source

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

A tattoo on a teenager is, to my mind, a mistake. Like it or not, tattoos can change the outcome of a job interview, and the way your teen will be viewed by others for the rest of their lives. Help your teen keep one eye on the future.
A tattoo on a teenager is, to my mind, a mistake. Like it or not, tattoos can change the outcome of a job interview, and the way your teen will be viewed by others for the rest of their lives. Help your teen keep one eye on the future. | Source

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.


Teenagers need encouragement. Don't waste time telling them things they don't need to hear. Just tell them to stay safe, work hard, have fun, and keep one eye on the future!
Teenagers need encouragement. Don't waste time telling them things they don't need to hear. Just tell them to stay safe, work hard, have fun, and keep one eye on the future! | Source

© 2014 LongTimeMother

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    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 6 months ago from Australia

      You are absolutely right, Jamie. There's an enormous difference between teaching a child how to think, and telling them what to think. Sadly, many parents don't seem to understand the difference.

    • JamieRRobillardSr profile image

      JamieRRobillardSr 6 months ago from Macon, GA USA

      Thanks for yet another cognitive and insightful article. One bit of advice that can go a very long way. Teach your children how to think and never confuse that with telling them what to think.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 22 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Great advice for parents with teens on what to share and not share about our past. Some parents feel the need to be a "cool" parent rather than a guiding light for their children. Children really need a parent who can impart a world view upon which they can base their decisions in adulthood.

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 2 years ago from Australia

      I would have liked some helpful advice when I first entered the teenage minefield as well, Bobby. Parents really should talk to each other. :)

    • the rawspirit profile image

      Robert Morgan 2 years ago from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Scottsdale AZ

      Another great hub. I wish I had you around as a friend when my wife and I were raising our teens, we could have used this kind of good advice. Blessings to you and the family. Bobby

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      very true indeed, we were rebellious in our time too.

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 2 years ago from Australia

      lol. I just keep loving them, peachpurple, and try to remember how annoying I must have been as a teenager. :)

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i nodded with agreement after reading your hub, true, teens think they are much clever than us parents

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 2 years ago from Australia

      Hi techygran. I'm past the teen years by a lot of years with my older kids ... but going through it all again with my youngest. It is interesting to be actively parenting with the experience and perspective of a grandmother. lol.

      And thanks, LisaKeating. Sorry I just saw your comment now. :)

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      I'm past the teen years, by a lot of years, but I do have granddaughters and it helps to remember some of your great tips as I see they have a sort of escalated life with all the electronic gadgets and other nefarious devices. I would like to parent them but recognize that that is not acceptable, so I do what I can as a long-distance grandmother without ruffling other feathers and trying to be wiser than an owl and more compassionate than I always was as a parent in the thick of crises. I admire your presentation of this prickly topic, and congratulate you on the recognition you received for a job well-done. ~Cynthia

    • profile image

      LisaKeating 3 years ago

      As an educator and a parent, I really appreciate your thoughtful approach to this topic. Being a parent is tough, and your advice is practical and realistic. Congrats on a great HOTD.

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Thanks to whoever is responsible for nominating or choosing this as hub of the day. And thanks for the comments, folks. I appreciate the feedback. :)

    • Maggie.L profile image

      Maggie.L 3 years ago from UK

      Great advice here for parents of teens. I will try to remember it the next time I open my mouth to bawl about the state of my teenagers' room. Thanks for your sharing your words of wisdom.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Very wise counsel and I like your tone. Many times we just talk, or not talk, without realizing the effects our words could have on our children. Thank you for this excellent presentation, and congratulations on your HOTD accolade!

    • profile image

      SageCanton 3 years ago

      A good hub - some great advice :) I particularly like the point about teens wanting to feel like they've done something you haven't. I think many parents feel tempted to share their own stories of rebellion with their teens to foster a sense of camaraderie but don't realize that they may be spurring their kids even farther.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I'm back to say Congratulations on HOTD!

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 3 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I also believe that the teenager attitude is a choice on part of the teen, and even when they are going through the so-called turbulent years they can choose to act differently. As a teen my sisters and I never rebelled, we cleaned our rooms, did chores to the hilt, and had a good relationship with our parents. I sometimes think giving teens a free pass saying "oh you are a teen you can act that way" entitles them to such behavior. Maybe my perception of this is different because I grew up in a mountain community where I had to walk dogs, was an honor role student, and always had a good relationship with my parents is different. I do know I never understood the teen angst thing, so I guess I just did not go through that phase many teenagers seem to suffer through. I might just be different.

    • Harishprasad profile image

      Harish Mamgain 3 years ago from India

      LongTimeMother, congrats for HOTD. This is really a very useful hub and surprisingly the advices you gave in this hub are applicable to all people inhabiting any part of the world. After all teens are teens ! Though I have traveled far as my children are now grown up and matured, I admire your wisdom and think that parents dealing with their teenagers would surely be benefited by your very sane ideas. Voted up and shared.

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      lol. Hormones and growth spurts keep life very interesting. :)

      Thanks, aviannovice.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This is great advice. Teens need encouragement and guidance. They have enough problems growing and trying to fit in with those hormones and growth spurts.

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Thanks teaches, DDE and Millionaire Tips. (It is good your friends were talking about themselves and not you, MT. )

      ElleBee, thanks for your feedback as well. I was writing about teenagers which is why I said start at 13 not 16. Teenagers tend to think that once they are officially teenagers, they automatically get the right to make their own clothing decisions. Of course, as you say, the rules should be set much earlier.

      I just thought that was obvious ... but then, I've seen photos of pre-teens that are inappropriate. Thanks for pointing it out. :)

    • profile image

      ElleBee 3 years ago

      Very interesting post. The one thing that stood out to me that I disagreed with had to do w/ setting clothing boundaries. You said this should start when they're 13 so that its not a huge battle when they're 16 and I have to disagree. It needs to start before 13. Wait until 13 and you may already have battles on your hands. If modesty in dress is something you/your family values then I think you need to start portraying that long before 13. Just my opinion. I think what you said about children not needing to hear about adults own mistakes of hating school, cutting class, drugs/alcohol etc. is definitely very true.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 3 years ago from USA

      When I first saw the title, I wasn't really sure that there is anything that teens don't need to know, but now that I have read the article, I agree wholeheartedly. Kids shouldn't be told these things. Unfortunately, even though, your friends probably won't follow this advice. My daughter was told by adults that they hated school, were terrible in math, cut class, etc.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      If parents tell their teens what they did as teens that certainly would be followed and compared to

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Good advice for parents of teens. I remember making some mistakes with my child that could have been prevented. Still, as you say - the years don't last forever and somehow, if we are good parents, we make it through.

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      True for most us, Martie. Although a few of the teenagers in my youth were lost to drugs, accidents (as a result of alcohol and/or drugs) and a very tragic suicide. It's a fine line.

      Thanks for your visit. :)

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 3 years ago from South Africa

      Teenagers are certainly a very complicated 'species', the most complicated of all humans. Better just leave them alone to hit their heads against all walls.

      After all, in spite of our parent's efforts to keep us on the right track, we have explored all the so-called short cuts and have entered adulthood all bruised and disillusioned. And here we are, still coping in this labyrinth called Life.

      Excellent hub!

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Hello Eddy. Thanks for the vote and the share. This hub was inspired by another mother's problems with her teenager. I'd just spent an hour chatting with her about some of these key points and thought I'd put them out for discussion.

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Thanks, Writer Fox. I'm sure they do appreciate me, but that doesn't stop them from getting cross with me from time to time. Mothers are always in the firing line. lol.

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Jodah, that's true. If we've done our job properly when they are littlies and pre-teen, they should be pretty good at making appropriate decisions. Their mistakes are all part of their fine-tuning. :)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      A great hub so interesting and leaves much food for thought.

      Voting up and sharing.

      Eddy.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      What great advice for raising teenagers! You sound like a mother with a lot of good, common sense. I'm sure your children appreciate you very much. Enjoyed and voted up.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great advice longtime mother. You have more success dealing with teenagers if you don't try to give advice or compare what they do to what you did. They need to be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. Voted up.

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Hi Nell. I had the advantage of previous experience with teenage children before the next ... and the next ... hit their teenage years. With the benefit of experience, I no longer needed to kick myself. lol.

      I've watched a lot of teenagers over the decades (mine, and other people's kids) and could have written an entire book on the subject. It was fun choosing just a few key points.

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Hello, Jackie. Isn't it lovely when our children surprise us. lol. They can move fast when they want to. We just have to inspire them to decide it is a good idea. :)

    • LongTimeMother profile image
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      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      Thanks, FlourishAnyway. I have no doubt you share my desire to focus on what's really important when communicating with teenagers. They have to be prepared to ride the ups and downs the future holds ... and we need to help them gain the confidence to do that. :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Great advice longtime, yes we do tend to open our mouths and boast before we realise what we are doing! I know I did a few times then kicked myself afterwards, they have to do it there way, without competition from our parents, great hub!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I sure agree with that respect thing, surely...

      I waited til my daughter wanted to do something to bring up what work she had needing done and to this day I am amazed at the speed she got it done. Really good too, I didn't let her get by with not doing it right. To have that energy...

      Up and sharing.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Written by the true voice of experience. No, they don't need to be told these things.