How to talk so your teen will listen

“The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Mark Twain

Friday, 7:55 a.m.
Boulder, CO

Good Morning,

Do you know what is really the significant thing about talking to your kids on a daily basis?

— It’s not knowing how their day went.

— Nor is it knowing who their friends are.

— It’s not even about knowing where your teen is going or what he is doing.

It’s not these things. They are of little consequence. They can and do, after all, change at speeds beyond your comprehension. The really significant thing about talking to your kids on a daily basis is that you touch them. You touch them with your words.

It is this invisible touch that helps you maintain influence over your teen when he is out in the world on his own, making his way without you.

You know that your teen faces untold risks and temptations on a daily basis. The pressures kids face today, even compared to just 20 years ago, are immense. The speed and ease of communication multiply the effect and impact of even the simplest choice.

It is estimated that we are exposed to up to 5,000 advertisements a day. Yes, you read that correctly, 5,000 ADS, A DAY!

As a result your presence, real or felt, is exponentially more important today than it ever was.

Ask yourself, “When my daughter left the house today, was she happy and at ease, or was she angry and upset?”

Then ask yourself, “How will how she feels impact her choices today?”

Your words can push away, just as easily as they can pull towards. You’ve experienced how the simplest, innocent and most inadvertent comment can create an avalanche of hateful and spiteful emotion. Emotion that can take hours, even days to dissipate. In an instant your influence has gone from positive to… NEGATIVE!

If the last exchange you have with your teen before he heads out for the day is full of negativity, anger and hate, then what do you suppose is his attitude towards you? When he is out in the world, filled with resentment and spite, facing the choice to get a ride home with a drunk friend or call you for ride, what do you think he is going to do? Call you… That’s probably the last thing he is going to do. He’s going to get in that car, and at that point who knows what will happen. We’ve all seen the headlines…


How you talk with your teen is one of your greatest allies in the defense against the onslaught of negative influences he faces everyday? The wrong word can push your teen away and lead him to make awful choices he might not otherwise make. The right word can pull your teen toward you and lead him to make the right choice.

The good news is that you can choose how you talk to your your teen. You can choose words that push your teen away or you can choose words that pull your teen closer to you. You can choose to judge, criticize, and demean your child or you can choose to love, acknowledge and empower your child.


I often hear parents say that they have no influence over their teen. That is simply not true. Most just don’t know how to use their influence in a positive way. Most parents are just winging it, doing the best job they can and, unknowingly, are stuck in a pattern of negative influence. They speak to their children the way their parents spoke to them or the way they see other parents speaking to their children.

There is a better way. Discovering that by just choosing a different word or different way of saying something that you can create a positive influence over your teen is a liberating experience for most parents. It liberates them from feeling like they are stumbling around in the dark.

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