A simple tool for improving communication with your teen daughter

Communicating with your teenage daughter can often feel as if both of you are speaking a foreign language.  Misunderstandings, misinterpretations and assumptions are common and will quickly damage an already delicate relationship.

I find that often parents and girls are talking about the same issues but coming at them from very different perspectives.  There is usually unwillingness from mom, dad and/or daughter to stop and consider the other view.

Describing a cell phone is a great example.  If I am only looking at the screen side and I begin to describe what I am seeing I may be exactly describing the details of the phone from my perspective.  If my daughter is looking at the back-side of the phone and begins to describe it she may also be exactly describing the cell phone. 

The problem is that both are describing the cell phone but from varying perspectives.  Both perspectives have value and truth, even if it’s very tiny.  Unless both parties are willing to come around and try to see what the other is seeing both will end up missing important information and most likely end up in unresolved conflict.

Often times in communication it is very easy to get caught up in black/white thinking or right/wrong thinking.  Unfortunately this almost never solves the problem.  You can stand your ground that you must be right or you can learn to be effective in communicating.  You can be right and lose the relationship.  It’s a choice.  Your daughter will not have the same emotional capacity as you do so mom and dad have the responsibility to model effective communication.  You will have to take the lead on this.

Open mindedness

If there is one thing I have learned in working with teen girls is that they honestly believe their parents are VERY closed-minded.  Often worldviews collide and once a problem bubbles up, girls believe that mom and dad have no interest in listening to their viewpoint. 

When you are listening to your daughter explain the situation, be open to really hearing her perspective.  Just because she sees it her way doesn’t mean that you have to believe everything she is saying or agree, but remember that she might believe everything she is saying and it could be very real to her.  Just because she thinks it, doesn’t mean it’s true. 

On the flip side I have often heard girls explain a situation to mom or dad only to have the parent completely dismiss her and be close-minded.  It’s so easy to do this because emotions are running high, especially fear.   People who are resistant to change or unwilling to consider another perspective struggle with fear.  She may be only 16 but there are some incredibly perceptive 16 yr olds out there!  Take time to slow down and listen.

Look for the kernel of truth

The key with open-mindedness is to be searching for a kernel of truth.  The kernel of truth communication skill will often help you find a starting place or help ease some of the emotion about any given situation, especially if your views are opposing.

In most communication problems people get stuck in their own view and don’t really listen to the other person to see if there is anything valid in what they are saying.  Everyone gets defensive, angry and then it shuts down communication.  That is ineffective and won’t move you forward.

Teen girls want and need to be heard.  Girls often believe that mom and dad don’t care what they have to say.  If you can learn to listen for the kernel of truth in what she is saying and validate it, you can improve the relationship and move towards problem solution or resolution. 

For example, Let’s say her curfew is 11pm and she is out at a movie with friends and then drives to the North end of town to grab a milkshake from their favorite spot.  One of her friends decides she is going ride back with a different friend.  Your daughter is all set to make it home on time.  Then she gets the call that her friend got stranded so your daughter decides to turn around and go get the friend.  Now she will be late.  She forgets to text you and figures she will only be 15 min late so she thinks no big deal

She comes home and you are upset that she didn’t call or text.  She starts to tell you the story and you are frustrated because this is the 3rd time something has come up.  It’s so easy to just get mad and ground her.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a consequence but it is critical that you hear her out and listen for that kernel of truth in her story.  You might validate that not leaving her friend was a good thing. 

The issue you have is her lack of communication.  Your objective is to get her to communicate better in the future.  If you just get mad about the entire situation and don’t recognize her view you can forget her willingness to try and remember next time.  You will shut her down because all she will think about is you yelling at her for being late when in her mind she has a totally valid reason. 

She believes she has a valid reason for every time she was late.  Recognize it and support what is true but not the lack of communication.  If she thinks she won’t be heard and that her point is valid she will ignore what you say.  This is not easy to do and takes a lot of practice!  It takes learning to calm emotions and get into a more logical/reasonable mindset.

It is so easy to get caught up in who is right or wrong when a problem or conflict arises.  She will almost always want to prove herself.  If you can remember that she is still in a major development state and learn to slow your own emotion down enough to listen to her, you will reap the benefit of connection.  With a little practice you will be surprised at helpful this tool can be!

Want more help in learning to communicate better with your teen daughter? 

RTG offers short-term classes on improving communication with your teen daughter.  The next one starts in September. There are only 8 seats available.  Get many of your questions answered and learn from other moms on the same journey.   Don't miss out!!