Nobody likes to be criticized. As adults, we recognize that sometimes correction and constructive criticism can be potentially helpful in a variety of situations. Perhaps at work, in relationships, or even when you’re gardening or cooking. That said, it can be frustrating when you feel like all someone is doing is criticizing you without recognizing the good and positive things that you’re doing. Without meaning to, you may just be doing this to your teenager. Teens can certainly be a bit more sensitive to criticism than adults are, but parents can also be overly critical when they’re speaking with their teens.
Being overly critical can take a toll on your teen’s self-confidence. But it can also damage your relationship with your teen.
How are your criticizing your teen?
As parents, we know how important it is that we help to prepare our teens for adulthood. They thrive in some areas, such as schoolwork, sports, and relationships with others. Without the need to comment on or correct these areas of your teen’s life, you may begin to focus strongly on the areas where you see that he could be making improvements. From your perspective, you’re helping to guide your teen toward the behaviors and actions that will stand him in good stead as he matures, moves out on his own, gets a job, and so on. From your teen’s perspective, all you’re doing is nagging him, pointing out his flaws, his failings, and the things that he doesn’t think he’s doing well enough to make you happy.
What might this look like?
- Frequent reminders to take out the trash, wash dishes, or do other chores around the house.
- Reminders to clean his bedroom or get his laundry done.
- Using language that appears as if has made or is going to make the wrong decision. “You should have…” “Why didn’t you…” “You need to…”
You might be frustrated with your teenager, and this is often understandable. But your teen is likely also getting frustrated and feeling like you only speak to him when you need to correct his behavior or criticize the way that he’s doing something.
A better way to approach conversations
In truth, your teen likely does need to be reminded of a few things every so often. You may be busy with work and other commitments and not necessarily have a lot of time to understand why your teen could be putting off his chores or not cleaning his bedroom. How then can you approach these topics and conversations with your teen? Particularly if he’s already in the mindset of believing that he’s just going to be criticized every time you engage with him.
- Before you engage with your teen, consider what your tone will be and what you’ll be talking about. Will you be talking with him or talking at him? Being mindful about how you’re going to interact with your teen can go a long way toward keeping him from immediately going on the defensive when you start to talk to him.
- Make time for true engagement and conversation. Your busy life may leave you without much time for conversations that go beyond quick instructions to tidy a bedroom or start dinner. However, the need to build, rebuild, and maintain your communication with your teen is so important. Teens who don’t feel like they can safely speak with their parents are at a higher risk of struggling with their mental health and making decisions that can potentially lead them down the wrong path.
- Let your teen know that you want to communicate with him in a way that works best for him. Some teens may prefer to text when they need to speak with you, while others may prefer a face-to-face conversation sitting outside. Communication can often mean meeting the other person at their comfort level.
- Don’t focus so much on the things that you feel you need to correct your teen about. Be mindful of them, of course. But think a bit about how often you sprinkle in compliments and positivity when you’re speaking with your teen. When was the last time you told him you were proud of him for something he did or accomplished? When did you last sit down and enjoy an upbeat conversation with your teen?
Planning to spend more time with your teen, just talking, is a great way to help reframe your relationship with him. Consider planning family outings and activities that offer the opportunity for fun without needing to speak on any deep level.
Repairing a struggling relationship with your teen
Has your teen expressed or demonstrated that he feels constantly criticized by you? Has he become immediately defensive when you speak to or ask him even the most benign questions? Does your teen appear to be struggling with his mental health? It’s quite possible that it’s at least partially due to feeling constantly attacked, criticized, and put down at home. Even if this wasn’t your intention, it is how your teen is feeling, and those feelings are valid.
There are a few things that you can do to help repair your relationship with your teen and help him with his mental health.
- Acknowledge that your approach with him has not always been the best way. Your teen may be surprised to hear this; he may feel like you’re always on his case.
- Ask your teen how he feels you can improve how you interact with him. Does he think you raise your voice too often? Remind him that you genuinely want to know how he feels so that you can repair your relationship with him.
- Speak with your teen to find out if something else is going on behind the things you find yourself constantly picking out. As an example, depression can make it a challenge to find the motivation to clean your bedroom or even take a shower sometimes.
- Therapy can be useful for teens and parents looking to change their relationship and their approach to their relationships. Individual and family therapy can offer so many great benefits for everyone.
Teens who continue to struggle with their mental health and their behavior may find that another option is the better one to help them. Residential treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, and other similar programs offer more in-depth treatment for troubled teens.
At HelpYourTeenNow, we pride ourselves on pairing teens and parents with the right types of resources to help them navigate this next stage in their relationship.
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