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My Teen Won’t Listen to Me: What Can I Do?

Teen Won't Listen
Photo Credit: 123RF

When your teen won’t listen, anxiety can skyrocket. Just when your teen gets to the age where they decide to take more risks –they’re also reluctant to listen.

And the reality is, they often find ways to do what they want regardless of what you say.


You can often gain the privilege of being heard when you nurture a strong, connected relationship with your teen. And even then, they may not follow your suggestions, but they’re much more likely to come back to comfort or guidance when they make decisions that don’t work out the way they’d hoped.

The first step is to ask yourself—“When I want my teen to “listen”, am I actually expecting them to “obey” me or follow my advice? Expecting obedience can set you up for conflict with them because then there are two polar opposite options– “obedience” at the one end, or “ignoring/rebelling” at the other. It blocks connection.

You want to find the space in the middle, in which you can hear and understand what your teen is experiencing or desiring, and also discuss your bottom line: How can your teen move forward and learn to be more independent, and also stay safe?

You want to keep the connection strong enough that they’ll at least listen to your perspective, and hopefully heed some of the suggestions for safety.

These are two practical strategies for nurturing a strong connection, and one for finding the space in the middle when there’s disagreement:

  • In general, when you greet them, instead of asking questions, welcome them and let them know you’re happy to see them. Questions can shut them down
  • Share a story about something they’d be interested in, or something funny you learned or read. This can connect and lighten things between you
  • When you do ask questions (e.g., about a plan they’ve made), make sure you use a tone that’s curious and that suggests you trust that they’ve thought this through. If the questions are stemming from your own anxiety, or trying to prove that they don’t know what they’re doing—this will come through in your voice and they’ll likely shut you out

That last bullet point is key.

In the next post, I’ll share an important strategy that you can start when they’re younger, that’ll help when they get to their teen years.