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How Can You Build a Strong, Healthy Relationship With Your Teenager?

Guest post author Elizabeth Donovan is a psychotherapist, mom to three little girls, freelance writer, and owner of, a parenting site dedicated to raising strong, resilient girls.

“Mom, you are so lame! I hate you!”

Sound familiar?

Raising a teenager is difficult. Maintaining a strong relationship in the midst of raging hormones and endless arguing can be one of the most difficult challenges of parenthood.


I have listened to parents struggling with their teens express a heartfelt desire to build a better relationship, but often they have no idea where to begin. Good communication is an essential building block to a strong relationship between parents and teens. Learning how to talk to your teen will open doors for both of you and serve to strengthen your relationship.

    • Listen “Actively.” One of the key components to developing a healthy relationship with your teen is to actively listen to what they say.
    • Stop what you are doing.
    • Look directly at your teen and give her your full attention.
    • Listen carefully to what she is saying and comment on what you think you heard. You might do this by rephrasing what was said to you.
    • Be sure to give your teenager an answer or ask her to repeat herself if you don’t understand what she is trying to say.
    • Be respectful. Treat your teen the same way you would like to be treated.

    · Keep your anger and frustration to a minimum. Try to be responsive, not reactive. This may be difficult when your teen is asking you for something you disagree with, but the key is for parents to take their emotional responses out of the equation. It’s better to take a break than to say something impulsive and risk damaging your relationship.

    · Give your teen ownership of the problem. Often, parents want to fix their teen’s problem. Unfortunately, that response can be self-serving. When your daughter gets a D on her report card, whose problem is it? Your response should be brief and to-the-point: ask her how she’s going to manage it, give consequences, and be done with it. The more worked-up you get, the less likely she will attempt to resolve it herself.

    · Get it in writing. Often, good communication fails because there is a genuine misunderstanding among parents and teenagers. You said, “Be home by midnight,” but your teen heard “Be home ‘around’ midnight.” It’s a good idea to write down rules to minimize misunderstandings.

    · Role model. Though they often won’t admit it, teenagers scrutinize your “every” move. If they see you break rules, they’ll believe its ok for them to do the same.

    · Reserve one-on-one time. Once children reach adolescence, parents often think that doing things together is less important. After all, don’t teenagers really want to be with their friends all the time? The truth is that most adolescents long for time with their family or going to the mall with mom, but are afraid to ask for it. So, offer your teen special time with you. It can provide fun conversations and important memories.

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    · Give praise and reframe statements. Its human nature to point out the negatives, but often takes an act of courage to say what’s right. Pay attention to the things your teenager does that are worthy of praise. If you have a complaint, try to positively reframe it. For example, “I appreciate it when you pick your clothes up off the floor” rather than, “Pick your clothes up or else you’re on restriction this weekend”.

    · Share your feelings. When you share your genuine feelings about an issue, your teen may be less resistant. For example, “I worry when I can’t get hold of you on your cell” allows your teen to understand your perspective.

    · Never reject your teen. There are many times parents get so frustrated and overwhelmed by their teenagers behavior that they shut them out. Walking away from your teen or refusing to talk with her will only serve to drive a damaging wedge in your relationship. Parental rejection is often the root of more severe behavioral problems in teens. If you feel you absolutely cannot deal with your teenager, it’s best to contact a mental health professional to help sort things out.mother & daughter

    And remember, the key to any lasting, loving relationship is good communication and mutual respect.

    Photo credits Bass_NRoll, rentamoose, mafleen

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    Connect with your teens said...

    This is a great topic. I write a blog on how to Connect with your Teens through pop culture and technology
    It isn't going to help with the battles or the problems, but it can help parents and teens get closer by allowing them to share more common interests and can help parents better understand their teens.

    sunshine said...

    I have 2 teenage boys right now. Thanks for the great tips.

    Bonnie Irving said...

    Mutual respect! How do you get thru when there isnt Mutual respect? They do things to ME they would NEVER in a million years do to their dad! But, when i get Mad/Frustrated with them, They act like its the end of the world, and i am the MOST horrible MOM ever! But,if DAD gets mad@ them for doing the same thing, Nothing is said and they deal with it, quit the behavior. UGH!!! This happened today, so, its really Fresh and annoying!

    The Mother said...

    Bonnie: you have a point. If THEY don't respect US, that's a problem. I have one very difficult child. He's been through counseling and on meds and he's still a difficult child.

    Time heals all wounds—as he matures, we do see less and less of that behavior. Maybe someday he'll grow up the rest of the way and finish the job.

    ParentingPink said...

    Hi Bonnie. Wow, I do hear your frustration and I don't blame you. You are absolutely correct - forging a strong relationship with your teen is about "mutual respect" too. Sounds like your son is the master of playing mom against dad (good cop/bad cop). You say something and you are "vilified"; dad says the same thing and he's the "hero." Unfortunately, not unusual behavior for teens - especially if there is a divorce or separation issue among the parents.

    I applaud you for "trying to set limits" with them. That's the first step. Teens should never be allowed to "walk all over" their parents. Stick to your limits even though they are "angry" with you. They will probably never admit it, but teens begin to respect parents who "tell them no." Then I would talk with them after the argument - calmly. If they are in the "mom, your so lame" stage, you can also talk with their father. The best way to nip bad behavior is to have both parents "on the same page" with their children's discipline. While that's not always possible, it does help a great deal.

    Lastly? Hang in there. Yes, I know...easier said than done. Teens can be a difficult, bratty, snarky, back-talking bunch - BUT, they can also be kind, caring, and considerate.

    Hope this helps some. And keep up the good work - parenting is never easy, but it is rewarding...I promise :-)

    ParentingPink said...

    Oh, I also meant to add that I liked the way The Mommy phrased, "Time heals all wounds—as he matures, we do see less and less of that behavior." That is very true in lots of cases! There is hope.

    That being said, if you do suspect there are other things going on, or his behavior continues to get worse or physical with you, then it's probably time to talk to a professional. I always like to throw that out as a possibility because sometimes there are things going on with our children that require extra attention.

    Jennifer said...

    I have 3 teenage boys, thank you for the advise.