6 Things Parents Should Never Say to Their Teenagers

Navigating the tumultuous teenage years can be a daunting task for any parent. As you strive to bridge the communication gap with your adolescent, certain phrases can inadvertently cause more harm than good.

In this era where words carry immense power, it’s crucial to understand that what might seem like a casual comment to you can deeply impact your teenager. Teenagers are at a sensitive stage of their lives where they are trying to figure out their identities and place in the world. As parents, our role is to guide them through this journey with care and understanding.

Based on my experience as a parent and insights from experts, I’ve compiled a list of 6 things you should avoid saying to your teenager. These phrases might seem harmless on the surface, but they can potentially damage your relationship with your child and affect their self-esteem.

So, if you’re seeking to foster stronger connections with your teenager and support their emotional growth, this guide is for you. Let’s delve into these phrases that we should steer clear from to maintain a healthy and open line of communication with our teens.

1. “You’re just a kid, you wouldn’t understand”

This phrase creates a barrier between you and your teenager. It sends a message that their feelings, perspectives, and experiences are invalid due to their age.

Teenagers are at a stage where they’re developing their sense of self, and such dismissive comments can make them feel unheard and unimportant. It might discourage them from sharing their thoughts and feelings with you in the future, leading to a strained relationship.

Instead of dismissing their feelings, try to validate their experiences. Make an effort to listen and understand them. A better approach would be to say, “I understand that you might see it differently, let’s talk about it.” This encourages open dialogue and makes them feel valued.

Your teen’s feelings are as real to them as yours are to you. By validating their feelings, you’re fostering an environment where they’d feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns with you.

2. “Because I said so”

This phrase is often used as a conversation ender when parents find it hard to explain their stance or when they’re too exhausted to engage in a discussion. However, using this phrase can leave your teenager feeling frustrated and unheard.

Teenagers are at a stage where they’re trying to develop their critical thinking skills. They’re likely to question things around them, including your authority. Rather than shutting down their questions with a “because I said so,” try to explain your reasoning behind your decisions or rules.

Providing a reasoning validates their question and gives them an insight into your thought process, helping them understand where you’re coming from. It encourages them to think critically and fosters mutual respect.

For example, when your teenager inquires about attending a late-night party, avoid responding with a curt “because I said so.” Instead, opt for a more explanatory approach like, “I’m concerned about your safety. Late-night gatherings can sometimes involve risky situations.” This method allows you to express your worries while also offering clear reasoning for your decision.

3. “Stop being so dramatic”

Teenagers can indeed be emotional, but labeling their feelings as “drama” can be dismissive and invalidating. It suggests that their emotions are exaggerated or unimportant, which can lead to them suppressing their feelings or doubting their emotional responses.

Emotions, regardless of age, serve as natural responses to various life situations. Rather than quickly dismissing their feelings as “drama,” it’s vital to approach them with empathy and understanding.

Encourage them to express their emotions openly and assure them that their feelings are valid and deserving of attention. By fostering an environment where their emotional experiences are acknowledged and respected, you help nurture their emotional intelligence and strengthen the bond of trust between you.

4. “Why can’t you be more like your sibling?”

Comparison is a trap that many parents fall into, often unintentionally. You may think that comparing your teenager with their sibling or peers might motivate them to do better. However, this approach can have the opposite effect.

Comparisons can lead to feelings of inadequacy and resentment. It can make your teenager feel like they’re not good enough and that they’re constantly in a competition they didn’t sign up for.

Every child is unique with their own strengths and weaknesses. Appreciate their individuality and avoid making comparisons. Emphasize encouraging your teenager to become the best version of themselves by focusing on their personal growth and achievements.

When concerns arise regarding specific behaviors or attitudes, tackle these issues directly. For instance, if your teenager isn’t putting enough effort into their studies, focus on that specifically, not how their sibling is performing academically.

Fostering a positive self-image in your teenager is a great way to boost their self-esteem and encourage personal growth.

5. “You’re always on your phone”

While it’s true that teenagers spend a significant amount of time on their phones, generalizing their behavior as “always being on the phone” can come off as accusatory and dismissive. It can make your teenager feel like they’re being monitored and that their habits are being criticized without understanding.

You should try to understand why they’re spending so much time on their phone. Is it because they’re connecting with their friends? Or because they’re exploring their interests?

When you’re concerned about the amount of time they spend on their phone, have an open conversation about it. You can express your concerns and discuss the importance of balancing screen time with other activities.

6. “I’m disappointed in you”

As a parent, it’s natural to feel disappointed when your teenager makes a mistake or behaves in a way you didn’t expect. However, expressing it as “I’m disappointed in you” can make them feel like they’ve failed you.

This phrase focuses on the negative aspect of their behavior and places the emphasis on your feelings rather than their actions. It can make them feel guilty and can negatively impact their self-esteem.

Focus your attention on their actions and the resulting consequences. You could say, “Your actions have led to this unfortunate consequence. Let’s discuss how we can avoid this in the future.” This approach keeps the conversation centered on the behavior and encourages a dialogue aimed at finding solutions.

This way, your teenager knows that it’s their actions that need to be improved, not them as a person. It helps maintain their self-esteem while still addressing the issue at hand.

Building Effective Communication

Effective communication is key to building a healthy relationship with your teenager. It’s about more than just avoiding certain phrases; it’s about creating an environment where your teenager feels heard, understood, and respected.

Start by acknowledging their feelings and experiences. Provide a safe space where they can express themselves without fear of judgment or criticism. Listen actively and empathetically to what they have to say.

Encourage open dialogue. Instead of making assumptions or jumping to conclusions, ask open-ended questions that allow your teenager to express their thoughts and feelings. This promotes understanding and builds trust.

Finally, lead by example. Show your teenager the kind of communication and behavior you expect from them. Your actions can serve as a powerful lesson for them.

Remember, the goal isn’t to avoid conflict or disagreements entirely – that’s impossible. The goal is to handle these situations in a way that respects your teenager’s feelings and fosters mutual understanding. With patience, understanding, and respect, you can build a strong and healthy relationship with your teenager.

Tina Fey

Tina Fey

Tina Fey is a nomadic writer with a background in psychology, specializing in child development. Born and raised in diverse cultural settings, she developed a deep understanding of human behavior and the intricacies of parenting. Driven by her passion for helping others, Tina now contributes to Careful Parents, offering practical advice and insights drawn from her expertise and experiences. Through her articles, she aims to empower parents with effective strategies for nurturing healthy relationships and fostering their children's growth.

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