How to Talk with Tweens and Teens!

The primary goal of adolescence is for kids to develop a separate self with a mind of their own. Learning to speak your own mind is a very important goal.

For parents, in the habit of setting limits and telling their younger kids what to do, this new communication shift will be a major one.

The rule for effective parents of Tweenagers and Teens is: Ask, Don’t Tell

How can parents help kids develop and speak their own mind?

Ask them what they think. And why. And importantly, listen to what they say.

This is a process called dialoguing, and it is critical to helping kids learn to think for themselves. When we discuss using your parent decoder ring in our workshops, this is the # 1 tool.

This ability to speak their own mind will help them define themselves. It will also help them stand up to peer pressure.

Rules for Dialoguing:


Give them some Space if they say that don’t want to talk about it. Developing a mind of your own takes time and space to even know how you think and feel about situations. They probably don’t want to talk about it because they don’t even know yet what they think about it.

But like most things with kids, boundaries are helpful. “OK, but let’s discuss this before bedtime tonight.” Staying connected is important when parenting tweens and teens. Caring about what’s on their mind will matter. It’s still important to keep them safe.

B. Listen to what they say. Really, just listen. With full attention.
NO COMMENTS. (I had to imagine duct taping my mouth as I learned this skill. I even really tried it once but taking it off is really painful!)

Listen with your body language. Lean in. Nod your head. Full eye contact. Neutral face. Encouraging face. Empathy comments are important here, such as, “That must have been hard.” “Tell me more about that.” “Wow.”

It is an honor to assist a mind in the making.

C. Ask Questions. Using all of the above tools, and with neutrality, ask some probing questions. “Did that help?” “What did your friend do then?” “Did that work for you? “What else will you try.”

The goal of these questions is to further draw out what they think. No snark, no making fun of what they did, no snide comments, no eye roll. If you ever want them to feel safe enough to discuss anything with you again. Seriously.

D. Give an opinion. As I learned this process with my kids (who are now adults), they have NEVER actually chosen D.

Just sayin’.

Starting the Teen Talk Process.

The process of this Teen Talk is one of the most important, and most difficult things for parents, in all of the parenting work you will be doing. EVER.

Here’s a sample:

Discuss this new system with your child when things are calm. Then:

Your child is very upset about something. Anything.
You say, “Do you want A, B, C, or D?”

Generally, they will choose A, or B, or very occasionally, C.

D? Forget about it!

So, if we want your kids to have a mind of their own, and speak it well, they will need practice. SO much practice.

And that gets us some practice too. Practice your neutral face, your body language. Be the face you would want to talk with when you feel upset.

Ask, Don’t Tell.

You can do this! And you don’t have to wait until your kids are Tweens and Teens.

Kids as young as two years old will respond to this approach, although not with great skill, just yet.

It works because it is respectful. With practice, they will get better.

And so will you. And you can use this approach with your spouse. Or your boss. Or your upset neighbor.

The world will definitely benefit.

©2023 For Kids’ Sake