Huh? Are You Talking to Me?

ImageI read a book recently that had too much dialogue.  To me it felt like “Blah blah blah,” and I finally started skipping over the dialogue (and ignoring it in the process).

Parents of middle schoolers sometimes try to engage in too much dialogue.  Or they deliver long monologues, which are worse.  Remember how the adults sounded in the old Charlie Brown cartoons?  That’s what middle schoolers hear after the first few words.

Keep in mind that when you lecture a teenager, you are the only one listening after the first minute or two.  At some point you’ll figure that out and ask a question like, “Are you even paying attention?” or “You’re not listening, are you?”  Such questions will cause defensiveness and “attitude” in the teenager – and now you’ve got a whole new problem to deal with.

You’ll get the best results by keeping your speeches short and to the point.  Skip the questions altogether, especially the ones doomed to make things worse: “What were you thinking?” or “Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”

Name the problem, issue the consequence – and include a sincere apology, if it’s appropriate: “I’m sorry, but since you didn’t call last night when you were going to be late, you won’t be allowed to go to tonight’s birthday party.”  No need to raise your voice, point your finger, or make the teen look remorseful.  Just say your piece and walk away.

Because at that point, both of you will still be listening.

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