"Spend more time listening to what we have to say. Then we'll spend more time listening to you."
These words from a teenager highlight what a hot issue communication can be for parents and their teenage children. There are common complaints on both sides. For instance, many parents complain their teenagers are noisy, rude, untidy and inconsiderate -- they talk on the phone for hours, eat all the food in the house and refuse to discuss things even when they're given the chance.
In the same way, many teenagers complain that their parents are always telling them off and saying they never did such-and-such when they were young. They hate it when their parents laugh at them and make fun of their views, and it really bugs them when their mum or dad walks away from a discussion.
Many parents feel they need a strategy to help them bridge the gap between these two positions and work out what's manageable in their household and what's not.
Communicating with teenagers is not like communicating with adults. Often it needs more time, space and lots of patience. Teenagers tend not to respond if you suggest, say, sitting down at six o'clock tonight to have a chat.
Often you have to wait for the moment when they say something that suggests they are prepared to open up to you. It's a good idea to take that opportunity to really listen to what's bothering them and to talk about the things on your mind.
Ask yourself what's the best approach for getting your teenager to listen, and to talk. Try opening up the conversation rather than giving them a "telling off". You could try something like: "It's obvious things aren't okay at the moment. How do you think we can make them better?"Or: "What do you need about such-and-such?"Remember not to pressure them but to let them tell you things in their own time.
You might also try to work out a good time and place to talk, for instance in your teenager's bedroom when they've gone to bed; or when you're driving somewhere in the car -- in that way they don't have to meet your eye if they don't want to.
Once they start talking really listen to them without interrupting and hear what they're saying. They might then listen to what you need and you might be able to negotiate something that they might stick to.
If you're asking them to do something differently tell them why it's important for you. And invite them to tell you what's important for them. Try talking about how you might both be able to get what you want and work out how you can get agreement.
These approaches also work well with younger children. And if you start using them when a child's 11 or 12 years old they will be that much more familiar to them by the time they become a teenager.
If you would like to talk to a counsellor about communicating with teenagers contact Relationships Aotearoa on 0800 735 283 or telephone your local office.