When Teens Dismiss Parents’ Solutions: 6 Tips to Get Them Listening

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: When Teens Dismiss Parents’ Solutions: 6 Tips to Get Them Listening

I still remember everything about that day. The reason I remember it so vividly is because it was a pivotal parenting moment for me.

My middle daughter, then an 8th grader in middle school, was experiencing a ton of girl drama in her life. After hearing her complain about all the behind-the-scenes gossip, low blows and jealousies she was having to endure day in and day out, I had finally reached my boiling point and blurted out, “When are you ever going to learn to stop being a doormat for others? You spend all your time complaining and whining, but you never do anything about it. Stand up for yourself for a change!”

Although my intentions were good (I sincerely tried to help her and had grown weary of seeing my once confident, carefree girl so burdened with senseless drama), my daughter later confirmed that, well… my delivery totally stunk.

The truth is, I knew it. As the words were streaming from my mouth, I clearly knew my daughter wouldn’t wrap her arms around my advice and lovingly say “thank you, mom, for caring enough to help me through this.” In her eyes, it was a personal attack. She was weak. She wasn’t doing anything about it. She was allowing it.

It didn’t take me long to realize that any feedback or solutions I offered after that not only fell on deaf ears but that my daughter actually became angry and defensive every time I tried to help.

After more than a few “lessons learned,” I figured out a thing or two about offering feedback and constructive criticism to my kids when they needed it most. Lessons I wish I had learned earlier. Lessons that could have proven beneficial for my kids and helped me approach the challenges they faced in life with a little more humility and grace.

If you want to know why teens dismiss parents’ solutions and how you can offer your teen feedback and solutions so that they’ll actually listen, here’s what I’ve learned through plenty of trial and error. 

When Teens Dismiss Parents’ Solutions: 6 Tips to Get Them Listening


#1 Listen First, Fix Later

As parents, we’re the “fixers.” From the time our kids were young, we could fix just about anything. If our kids had a runny nose, a skinned knee or a spat on the playground with a friend, we always stood ready to jump in feet first and come to their rescue.

But now, our kids are teenagers. They don’t need or want our help nearly as much as they once did. In fact, in some cases, they want nothing more than a sounding board and perhaps a little empathy – no opinions, no “let me tell you a story about my childhood,” no “I read this tip in a magazine,” and definitely no “this is what I think you should do.”

When our kids come to us with issues or problems they’re facing in life, we have to first listen with the intent to feel what they’re feeling, not listen with the intent to fix or abolish their problems. We may be able to help them fix things later, but for now, the goal should be to lend a listening ear.

#2 Keep Your Cool

When my daughter came to me with her friend problems, I lost my cool. And, when I lost my cool, I lost her faith in me and every ounce of influence I might have had right along with it.

As difficult as it might be, regardless of what your teen is sharing with you, you need to keep your emotions in check. Whether your son confides in you that his best friend is experimenting with hard drugs and he’s asking for help on how to handle it or your daughter has had a run-in with a teacher about a grade and she’s lost on how to handle it, we can’t win our kids’ confidence or influence their actions, decisions, choices or direction in life if we get riled up and lose sight of our goal to help, not hinder, the process.

The bottom line is, we can’t expect our kids to learn how to handle life’s challenges calmly and confidently if we can’t do that ourselves.

#3 Focus on the Issue, Not Your Teen

When our goal is to deliver honest feedback and criticism to our kids, it’s all too easy (in the heat of the moment) to accuse, blame and toss out an (inadvertent) personal attack. “Do you want to know why your grades are suffering? It’s because you’re lazy and you don’t care if you turn your assignments in on time.” “You always say how bored you are, but it’s your own fault – all you do is sit in your room and play video games all day.”

Rather than coming at your child with loaded guns, focus on the issue – not your teen. Instead, try saying, “Listen, your grades have taken a hit. Let’s go buy you a decent planner or download an app so you can manage your time more effectively.” “There’s a ton of things you can be doing if you’re bored. Why not join a club, start a new hobby or give a new sport a try? You won’t have time to be bored if you’re busy.”

#4 Praise Their Efforts, Recognize Their Struggle

Whatever challenges our kids may be facing that requires our feedback, we need to, at the very least, let them know we’re proud of their efforts and recognize their struggle.

Your daughter may have tried hard this month to focus on studying and getting her grades up, but fell short because she became overwhelmed by the mounds of homework she has – let her know that you recognize her effort and her struggle. Your son tried to have a level-headed conversation with his friend about the dangers of doing hard drugs and his friend lost his cool – let him know you’re proud of his effort to be a good friend and that you recognize how hard this must be for him.

The feedback our kids need from us is pure validation that we see their efforts, recognize their struggles, and stand ready to help.

#5 Step Down from Your Parental Pedestal

If you haven’t figured this out yet, you likely will in the near future. As our kids mature, they view us less as the authoritative “know all” parent and more as simply “people.” They’ve come to figure out a few things on their own and they’re forming opinions based on their own experiences in life – as such, we don’t hold the parental power we once did.

Trust me, that’s a good thing! It means you’re equipping your child with the tools they need to face this world without you and it also means your child is readying their wings to fly.

That being said, while we might be eager to share every ounce of our acquired life experiences with our kids, they may not be quite so interested in receiving it. As opposed to stoically standing on your parental pedestal of perfection, dial it down a notch and let your teen know you don’t have all the answers. Offer ideas, not instructions. Support, not solutions. They’ll be far more accepting of your desire to help (and be far more open to your solutions) if you approach them with a sense of humility.

#6 Create a Partnership

One of my favorite quotes is, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” In other words, when our kids need feedback, we can’t help them, support them, guide them or influence them if we’re merely an add-on to the problem. Be the solution.

Whether you work together to come up with ideas and solutions or offer your teen the emotional support they need to tackle the problem themselves, synchronize so that it’s a collaborative effort and your teen doesn’t feel alone. When your teen feels a sense of solidarity with you, sometimes that’s all the reassurance and vote of confidence they need to battle a few of life’s storms on their own.

When teens dismiss parents’ solutions, there are things parents can do to turn the tables and get their teens listening. Share your insight – what do you do to get your teen listening? Offer feedback in the comments section below!

If you liked this post, here are a few others you might enjoy reading:

Here’s Why You Should Fight to Build a Relationship with Your Teen

10 Things Teenagers Love (Even if They’d Never Admit It)

10 Ultimate Truths About Parenting Teen Boys

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