Managing the teenage snub

Clinical psychologist Dr. Tom Phelan says many parents make mistakes when dealing with what he calls the "teenage snub."

“You’re sitting at dinner with your sixteen-year-old son and you say, ‘How was your day?’ He says, ‘Fine.’ You say, ‘What did you do?’ He says, ‘Nothing.’”

“Parents are very stubborn, it can go on like this for years and the parents are feeling rejected and are upset thinking what did I do wrong?” Phelan explains.

Phelan says that’s the first mistake.

“Parents need to think differently and don’t think they did anything wrong, this is a normal response from my teenager,” Phelan said. “When you say 'How was your day?' to a teenager that translates to 'Did you screw up anything today that I need to know about?'”

Phelan says parents need to revise their job description in the teen years. “When am I going to get involved with these kids and when am I not going to get involved with these kids?” Phelan said. “It is the essence of living with a teenager, knowing when to shut up and knowing when to say something.”

Phelan says the dinner table is a great place to use several options for getting conversation going.

“One thing you can do is don’t say anything,” Phelan said. “Another thing is to have a conversation with your spouse or partner about something newsworthy and interesting. The focus is on you and not them and they feel more on an equal plane.”

“They don’t want to feel that you’re always checking up on them wondering 'How’s your mental state?' 'Are you depressed?' 'Are you anxious?'” Phelan explained. “That’s a good way to get them to dislike you very much.”

“The good news is they will imitate your values if you have an open and friendly relationship,” Phelan said. “They will take on your values so you don’t have to lecture it into them. Model it is a much more potent way of learning.”



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