When your teenager was young, they were a great listener. They valued your input and experience and even did as you asked (most days). Now, it’s like everything you say goes in one ear and out the other. 

Nagging Never Works…

Nagging and reminding your teen about every little thing is exhausting and your teen hates it too! It’s even been scientifically proven NOT to work and create LESS productivity. 

Studies have shown when leaders nagged and reminded people to complete tasks, believing they were lazy and needed constant prodding to get anything done, people actually did less

But I have proof!

You likely do. I’m certain there’s been more than one occasion where you’ve asked your teen to complete a task and they forgot, didn’t care, or just didn’t listen. Your previous experience is the only data you need to build stories about your teen’s behavior; they’re lazy, disrespectful, selfish, or irresponsible. 

You can be right, or you can have a relationship with your teen’s developing brain. Keep reading before you make your decision.

Start with these two simple steps:

  1. Understanding why this is happening, and how the teen brain works
  2. Using specific scripts to preserve your energy and pierce your teen’s tunnel of focus

It’s about capacity, not capability.

When your teen was younger, their brain was literally operating differently. Their operating system was more simplistic and efficient with less processes to manage so when you asked them to do something, it was more likely they’d hear you and do it. 

Now your teen’s brain is growing and changing, becoming a more complex operating system that’s physically growing and developing neuropathways in that new growth at the same time creating some inefficiencies, not a lack of intelligence. Although the adolescent brain learns new skills faster than adults because of this growth, they reach capacity quickly so listening to volumes of instructions doesn’t work.

Your teen’s brain (and body) growth often leaves them tired, overwhelmed, and anxious with less capacity for intellectual prioritization of personal hygiene or environmental needs (like removing dirty dishes and food wrappers from their room before an army of ants does it for them). Even the few simple task you’re asking for while trying to teach them basic responsibilities can tip their processing power into the red if it’s communicated poorly.

Words matter

First things first, your teen isn’t your employee, and you don’t own their time. Speak with them the way you would like to be spoken to and respectfully ask,

“There are some things I’d like help with tonight. Do you have time?”, or

“This (be specific and brief) is what I would like help with tonight. What does your schedule look like?” 

You don’t know their homework load, whether they have other plans already booked. So, by asking first, you’re acknowledging their developing a life outside of just you and your family. 

Remember, teenagers have a fluid relationship with time and don’t create adult level planning. They may say “I don’t know.” That’s okay! 

“Clarity is kind.” – Dr. Brené Brown

Next, be as specific and brief as possible with your request giving approximate length of time and completion details, i.e., “I’d like these dishes to be washed, and you can just leave them to dry. Does that work for you?” No need to be commanding. They’re no longer a child, so don’t treat them like one! 

Depending on their answer you may need to negotiate a bit—”I’d really like this done by 9pm, is that possible?” may get answered with a no. Talk it out and find a time for the task to get done . 

Your new mindset and request scripts take time and patience as they shift your relationship for the better. When they say yes, empathize and validate their feelings with, “I know it sucks, I know you’d rather do other fun things. I’m grateful for your help.” The more you respect their point of view, the more they’ll respect you. Positive reinforcement is powerful so ALWAYS let your teen know you appreciate them doing the task when they’re done.

That’s how you get your teenager to listen. 

If you’ve already tried all that, it’s not working and you’re still at your wits end, join me in my private parenting community on Facebook for personalized answers to your posts, and specific tools in my LIVE Q&A sessions. Your relationship with your teen doesn’t need to be defined by resentment.

Click here to get started

Parenting is hard. You don’t have to do it alone.

Aly Pain

Growing up, I was the smart, fun girl on the outside and a frantic, anxious mess on the inside. I spent years healing the pain of dysfunctional family relationships, including eating disorders and a suicide attempt, to break the cycle raising my own teen boys.

Today, I’ve been happily married to my husband for over 23 years, and we have 2 incredible teen boys. My passion is empowering parents to build healthy, respectful relationships with their teens without giving up or giving up, even if they've tried everything and are at their wits end.

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