How do I talk to my teen? How do I relate to them on their level?
Well, frankly if you have done your best at teaching them, it won’t be as hard as you think. Your teen is a person, an average human. To relate to them, try the same communication skills that you employ when talking to your associates or your clients. Speak to them like an adult, be engaging and intelligent. Be respectful of their time and their feelings. Try to be empathetic. In the same way that we talk about teaching our kids to be empathetic, we also need to show it to them in actual life. There are a few pointers that I have picked up along the way, a few points to ponder before making a fool of yourself by “trying to speak their language.”
1: Have your conversation with them on purpose and tell them up front that this is what you are doing. Set a time with them just for this, in our house this happens at the dinner table, but your home is likely different. Make an appointment with them if you need to. Ask them to turn off their phone or at least their notifications, and give you their attention. Explain to them that like yours, their time is valuable and you don’t want to waste any of it; therefore a clear, concise discussion gets them back to their tasks faster. They really are very bright and they will realize that they have to treat you with respect in order to get the respect they desire.
2: If they grew up around you, they already speak your language. Talk to them the same way you would any other adult in the household. Don’t talk down to them, don’t dumb it down and don’t assume they can’t understand you. Unless you and their teachers have done an awful job for the last 12 or so years, your kids can understand you just fine. Will they want to talk? Probably not. Will they agree with you? Unless you are talking about giving them free concert tickets or raising their pay rate, then No, they will not agree with you. Don’t worry about that, just say what you want to say and move on. They hear you just fine and even if they don’t agree, they are listening and soaking up your data. Remember, as your child, it is their job to disagree with and ignore you. Also, don’t use a bunch of examples or repeat your point. If you do, they will get bored and tune out. No matter how clever you think you are, your metaphor will be tired and old to them. They get enough cliche from the memes on the Internet, don’t try to teach with them also. Speak your point clearly, one or two times, with eye contact
3: Don’t try to “reach them” by attempting to speak in their social vernacular. What I mean is don’t try to be cool by trying to use the words that they use among their friends. You will fail, look stupid and prove to them that you don’t respect them at all. We can all remember that sitcom where the clueless out of touch dad tried to sound cool by talking with all the hip, rad, and gnarly phrases that those crazy kids use nowadays. News flash, the reason you remember that guy is because he sounded so stupid and silly that you can’t forget him. If you recall my third rule: “Be friends with your kids but don’t embarrass them”, states very clearly that you as a parent can not and will not ever be cool. Don’t try. It isn’t worth it, and even if you pull it off, they will still be mortified as you are being “different or weird.” Say what you have to say, say it in plain English, say it where they can hear you and then live what you say. That will be vastly more efficient than trying to sound cool.
4: When you speak to them as a group, don’t label them. There is no way to tune them out faster than to start a conversation with “You Kids.” Even referring to them in the blanket term of “Millennials” is not acceptable. I have touched on this tag in a previous post, and so I don’t have to elaborate too much on my opinion of that term, just remember that when you take them all and throw them into a group, you marginalize them and make them feel disrespected. If you need to address a group, handle it as you would a sales presentation. Address them as you would a market segment, or as a collective peer group. Choose a positive commonality to associate them with and reference that. We have learned to use those groupings in a very productive and respectful way. One thing to remember is, while we as older people are more likely to group and profile people, the younger people are not likely to do that at all. In fact, they often find it offensive, and not just when someone is doing it to them; this is the generation that sees social injustice everywhere and is acutely critical of anyone who promotes it. Profiling your entire audience by their age is a form of discrimination, and they will tell you that.
So to sum this up, if you want to talk to “kids nowadays” or “Millennials” Don’t. Talk to people, because that is what they are. If you want to market to them, don’t, market to a group of individual people and focus on their positive commonalities. Remember that when we give someone or something a tag or a label, it makes it easier to forget what about it is special. Don’t talk to Millennials, just talk to people, neighbors, family members, and friends. If you want to get thru to them, try honesty. Be frank, honest and direct. Just like you, they can usually smell a lie like a fart in a car. They are just ordinary people, like you. So if you are trying to motivate them, tell them that you are, show them why they should be, and what they gain if they are. If you need their help, ask. Be sincere and just ask. They are quicker to rally to a worthy cause than any generation in recent history. They understand that we all share the same world and we all want the same things. If you want to sell them something, be honest. If it is a bad product, they probably won’t want it either. If they do it may be because, unlike you, they can see a use for it that is unintended or innovative. Don’t condemn them for being young, accept them for being people. The next time you want to have a conversation with a young person, try this: Be direct. Be honest. Talk to them the way you would your peers. Don’t talk down to them, just talk to them, then show them what you say by living it in front of them.
Categories: Parenting Thoughts