“Clean your room.”
“Do your homework.”
“Have you done your chores?”
“Not until you’ve done your…”
No one appreciates nagging. If you cringed a little bit reading that list, you probably grew up hearing things like that. You might have even promised yourself that nothing like that would ever come out of your mouth.
The reality is, if you’re the parent of a teenager, you’ve probably already used a variation or two of these very words, even despite the best of intentions. Why? Likely it’s because at some point you were just too tired or too stressed to figure out the alternatives. It just seemed more natural to tell your teen to ‘do’ rather than giving them the gentle push they needed that would have made them choose that action for themselves.
Believe it or not, there is a better way.
1. Start by being the voice of reason in the middle of the storm. When a teen is stressed and overwhelmed, at best they’ll shut down. At worst, they’re likely to make a series of decisions leading to disaster. When they hit this panic, it falls to you to still the chaos. Ask what they need and how they can help rather than jumping in with a rapid-fire set of instructions. Once they are calm, they will be better able to make their own decisions.
2. Then give your teen clarity so that they can see themselves for who they truly are. Teens typically have a pretty skewed vision of themselves and don’t often see the things that their parents do. Ask the questions that guide them to start seeing their strengths and talents. Prod these things into the spotlight and then show them how they can use these skills to solve the problem at hand.
3. Become a researcher and guidance counselor rolled into one. Rather than giving them the options, show them where to find them. Talk to them about their goals and then discuss ways to find the information needed to make them a reality. Encourage them to talk to mentors and counselors at school to guide them on this path of discovery.
4. Become a brainstorming buddy. When your teen gets stuck, instead of jumping in to tell them what to do, set up a session where the two of you can throw out ideas without censoring yourselves until you find a solution that sticks.
5. Become a cheerleader. Praise efforts and celebrate successes. It feels so much better than hassling your teen for the things left undone, or the failures they’ve met along the way.
By not nagging and instead focusing on the positive ways in which you can encourage your teen, you will find that your child comes away more motivated and excited about their lives in general. What’s more, you’ll build a positive relationship with your teen that you can enjoy in the years to come.