Transforming Teen Behavior with Positive Communication

Transforming Teen Behavior with Positive Communication

A woman smiling and talking. The text reads, "Transforming Teen Behavior with Positive Communication"

Have you been experiencing frustration with your children recently? We have all been there a time or two. As children go through puberty and start building their own unique identities, they begin to develop individualistic traits that may prevent them from interacting with you in the way they used to when they were younger.  

In this blog post, we will explore the transformative impact of positive communication, also referred to as Motivational Interviewing (MI), that you can have with your children to improve their behavior, self-esteem, attitude, and relationship with you. We will specifically discuss strategies you can use that are rooted in teen psychology, like active and empathetic language. 

In addition, real-life applications and advice will be used to highlight the benefits of positive communication to help empower you to address and solve issues with your children in an encouraging and supportive way.  


How You Can Be an Active Listener  


We understand that it can be difficult trying to communicate with your teenage son or daughter. You may feel as though based on their facial expressions and actions they have no interest in speaking and engaging with you.

We have been in your shoes and can feel the sweat building on your forehead as you fight the urge to throw in the towel and give up trying to connect with your children. Do not throw the towel in yet! 

We have created a brief list of simple tips and tricks so you can be an active listener to and help encourage a positive conversation with your teenagers.  


  1.  Pay Close Attention: You can show that you are interested in what your children are saying by using body language. 

    • Make eye contact, nod, and show concern or give encouraging smiles. Use natural cues to make your child feel you are there and genuinely interested. You can convey that you are listening and that what your adolescent is saying is important to you, even without speaking.

    • To decide on what you want to say next, lean in closer to your children and listen for the emotion they are conveying through their words and facial expressions.

    • You can gently embrace your teenager with a hug or place a hand on their shoulder to let them know you heard and understand them without even saying a word. 

  2. Give Affirmation and Positive Feedback: You can offer specific and immediate statements of positive feedback that can boost the confidence and self-esteem of your teenagers, inspiring them towards continued positive behavior. 
    • For example, if one of your children expresses feeling overwhelmed, you can acknowledge their courage in opening by saying, "I value your bravery in sharing how you feel" or "It can be difficult expressing ourselves when we are stressed. I'm thankful that you trusted me with your feelings."

    • If you see that one of your kids is wearing a new outfit, you can say something like, “I have not seen that outfit before. You look very pretty (or handsome) in that color.” 

    • “You played fantastic in your soccer game last night. Did you learn that new kick this past week?”

  3. Ask Open-Ended Questions: We encourage you to ask questions that elicit a response from your children that is not, “yes” or “no” to gain a deeper understanding of what they are thinking and feeling. Only ask questions that you feel comfortable asking. 

    • Center your questions similarly to, “What did I say that made you feel (insert emotion)?” 

    • “Can you explain to me what you mean by that?” in response to what they said. 

    • “From what you just said I understand that you are upset. Is that correct?”  


How to Develop Empathy in Your Teenager  


Developing empathy is a lifelong process for many people. In fact, to teach your teenagers how to be empathetic, it helps to practice empathy yourself. We are all imperfect human beings that have beliefs, values, dreams, etc. If your teenagers see that you are modeling empathy in your day-to-day life, it may rub off on them as well over time.  

The first step to being empathetic is by asking yourself and your children pointed questions that challenge multiple points of view. It is very possible that the culture or experience you understand well is seen in a completely unique way by someone else who was raised in a different culture or has different experiences. It is completely okay that people have varying opinions and ways of handling things than you do.  

Knowing that your perspective of life may not look the same as your neighbor’s, it can be easier to understand that even though you are the one raising your children, one of your teenagers may not have the same opinions as you based on their own experiences outside of the home.  


Do not shame your teenager for having a different point of view than you even if you think it is inherently wrong. Try to avoid emotional outbursts or argumentative words. Instead, we suggest that you calmly affirm their feelings by asking them clarifying questions so that you can understand why they may have that perspective.  


We constructed a list of statements that have empathy that you can use:   


  1. “That is a frustrating situation, is there anything that I can do to help you?”

  2. “I may not agree with your opinion, but I do understand why you would feel that way and I appreciate you explaining and sharing with me.”

  3. “Why do you feel that way? I experienced something similar when I was your age, and it changed the way I feel about (xyz).” 

  4. “I understand that your feelings are hurt. I am sorry for my actions. Do you need some time to process?” 

  5. “I understand that Julia has that belief but that does not mean that your belief is wrong. There are multiple beliefs a person can have and that still can mean they are a good person.”  


Be an Active Participant in Your Children’s Interests and Activities  


Life can get busy, especially if you are working full-time and you are raising multiple teenagers. We are not saying that you need to go to every single practice, game, or club that your teenager is a part of, but we do recommend trying to go to as many as you can. 

Even though your child may not directly say he or she wants you to go, go to the event anyway. By just showing up, you are showing your teenager that you care about them enough to give up whatever it is that is keeping you busy, to watch them and be an active participant in their life. There are many ways to show you care about your kid!  

Here are some simple examples:  


  • Make a concerted effort to go to as many of your children's activities such as sports, band, or chorus concerts, etc. 

  • Ask them questions about their interests.

  • Let your child teach you something new.

  • Praise them for good games, but also make sure to let them know it is okay to have a bad game too. Allow them to be imperfect.  


Foster Your Relationship with Your Teenagers with Child Focus 


At Child Focus, it is our mission to foster thriving kids, strong families, and successful adults. By learning how to listen to your teenager, ask clarifying questions, employ empathetic language, and be an active participant in your children's lives you will be able to see a positive transformation in your day-to-day interactions.  

To learn more about what we do at Child Focus, Click here!  Also, make sure to follow us on our social media pages. Instagram, X, Facebook, and LinkedIn

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