7 Surefire Ways to Shut Down Communication With Your Teenage Daughter – Part 2

by Jennifer Weberman on 03/15/2012

If you haven’t already read Part One of this article, click here.

Now in Part Two we’ll look at the remaining four conversation landmines. Here we go…

Mistake #4: Minimize her problems.  This can be accomplished by using phrases such as, “Don’t be so dramatic,” and “It’s not the end of the world,” and the parental favorite, “There are people in the world who would love to have your problems!”

How does this shut down communication?  I know, I just cautioned you not to overreact and now I’m cautioning you not to under-react. Oy! But minimizing her problems is not about your emotional reaction; it’s about the sarcastic undertones you convey that thoroughly invalidate her experience. Although the problem may not appear to be a big deal to you, at this moment, it is a very big deal to her.

More importantly, she may be using a small problem as a test to see how you’ll react, so she’ll know if she can trust you with a bigger problem. Sneaky, eh?

Mistake #5: Give your opinion freely about anything and everything in her life.  A sure way to close the lines of communication is to make comments about her friends, her taste in music, her clothing, her hairstyle…you name it. If you want to make sure the lines stay closed, don’t forget the biggest hand grenade of them all: comments about her weight.

Why does this serve to shut down communication?  Although she may not tell you this, your opinion of her is important to your daughter. Really, it IS. If she anticipates judgment or even evaluation from you for the little things, it will be more difficult for her to feel safe opening up about the big things. Nonverbal cues are equally important, so things like curling your lip, furrowing your brow, or shaking your head will all read as strong messages of disapproval.

Instead, when she has tastes and interests that differ from yours, try to show curiosity. For example, you may not like the music she listens to, but you can ask her what it is she likes about it. I’ve seen parents be pleasantly surprised by the answers they get.

Mistake #6: Tell everyone everything.  Do you tell your friends and family all the interesting details of your daughter’s life? Do you share with everyone which classes she’s doing well in and in which one’s she’s struggling, the ridiculous things she says that you find amusing, and of course any personal problem she’s having? When she makes Honor Roll, do you run straight to Facebook to post it? Well, given all that, do you really find it surprising that she’s always hiding from you these days?

How does this shut down communication?  Teens LOVE privacy. You may be tempted to think otherwise with their overt addictions to social media, but that’s a world where they feel they have some control. Online outlets allow them to create a persona based on how they want to be perceived by the world. When you share your daughter’s personal details without her consent, she may feel self-conscious and wonder what other private things you’ve shared about her. And as important as privacy is, trust is even more important.

Another point to consider: say you like to announce when she is doing well in school. Seems harmless enough, right?  But what happens if she has a rough marking period? What feelings might she have knowing how important it was to you to be public about her successes? What if you have one child that excels in school and one that doesn’t? By publicly praising one child’s academic successes, how might the other child feel?

Even the most well intentioned sharing can inadvertently put pressures and stress on our children. Remember, it’s always more important to let her know how proud you are than it is to tell the rest of the world.

Mistake #7: Use your phone while talking to her.  Read a text, send an email, take a call, check your voicemail. You think her use of technology irks you?  Believe me, nothing makes your daughter feel less important than having to fight with your Blackberry for your attention!

Why does this serve to shut down communication?  Believe it or not, even when your teen doesn’t seem like she’s interested in talking to you, that may be exactly what she wants to do. Before she does, though, she’s looking for signs of your receptivity. So look open. Turn off your phone during meal times. If you’re in the car together, ignore your texts and let your calls go to voicemail. Do you know why the car is such a popular place for teens to open up to you? It’s because eye contact is reduced, which has it feel “less weird” for them. So keep your eyes on the road, your phone in your purse, and listen!

If you can’t ignore your phone, then set aside some time when you can. Go on a coffee date and make a point of establishing a “no phone” rule. And then just talk :)


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Phyllis March 16, 2012 at 3:39 PM

Hi Jennifer,
Wow! This really hits home. Terrific food for thought. Think I’ll just write each mistake out on little index cards to keep in my pocket so I can review them lots. These really apply to all interactions I have with all people (except the cat maybe), not just with teens.


Jessica March 18, 2012 at 1:05 PM

Excellent article. This was a great reminder for me- especially mistake #1!


Ed Cohen March 19, 2012 at 2:53 PM

I am amazed at how well my kids have turned out with all the mistakes I’ve made.
Great article and a lot of food for thought. Notice how I brought food into this.
I’m a very proud father.



Stephanie July 12, 2012 at 5:01 PM

As a girl finishing up her teen yrs in 3 weeks, it’s amazing how many of these recommendations seem as though they will always apply to me–and my mother I’m sure. In avoiding communication problems, we have the most success when we consider what would most vex the other, and do our best to avoid it. This list most certainly informs us of such acts to avoid!


Bruce Sallan July 27, 2012 at 10:58 AM

Excuse me, I have a call…and I’m busy writing…sorry, what was that again? Oh yeah, your boyfriend did what? Oh, you mean your girlfriend. Just drop her. (covering ears) – Okay, okay…sorry I said anything. Huh? You want to change schools? Gimme a break – we’re NOT going to change schools. Why don’t you go talk to your mom…


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