As a teenager growing up, my parents were what I thought controlling. I remember as young kids we weren’t allowed to speak at the dinner table until all our food was eaten. The one vegetable I disliked was the brussel sprout, so you can imagine the silence that went on for quite some time at the table when those turned up on my plate! Thank goodness times have changed and many parents today use this time for a family catch up. 

I know my parents did the best they could. In those days there weren’t parenting courses available like there are today. All the parenting skills they learned and used no doubt were taken from the way they were parented. I now know the type of personality they had played a big part in their parenting style. My mum was very systematic, didn’t like it when things changed a lot and had a very “Drill Sergeant” like way of parenting. 

She was also not very flexible at times. Every Saturday morning, it was “Clean your room time”, and no arguing about it either! And as a teenager this habit of trying to control really brought out the worst in me. Mind you, guess who’s very similar to her? Yep, me! 

Thank goodness though I have taken the personal awareness path and now know how to debate with myself for shifting that mindset of trying to control things. My mantra for this one is, “Let it go, let it go, let it go Sandra!” Some of you might know the rest of the song. It’s got something to do with snow.   

I was told at times that I was either a “Good, bad or stupid” girl depending on what I was doing. Giving a child a label by calling them any of these things is the surest way to stick them with a negative self image. I know many of us unintentionally label our kiddos, especially when we’re angry or disappointed. “Why are you being so stupid?” Or “Don’t be such an idiot!” 

When acknowledging, use a quality you see them using at that time, for example,“Thanks for being patient by waiting for your sister to finish”. Instead of using the words “You’re such a good girl for waiting”. 

At school I was in the same class as my sister who was one year younger than me. In my first year of school I struggled with reading and writing so I repeated that year along with my sister who had just started school. As I grew into an adolescent I would compare myself to her ability to read and write, as she was more academic than I was. I was the tom boy who excelled at sports and outdoor activities. So, when my parents would label me as “stupid” it really re-enforced what I was already saying to myself!  

I asked my husband what was the one thing that used to frustrate him about his teenage years relating to his parent’s habits. He instantly said he felt like they never stopped to listen and they always seemed too busy.  This habit can really be a big frustration to your teen, especially if they love chatting and are social.

You see there are some styles that really need to develop listening skills and patience, when their kiddo wants to chat and they just don’t have the time. If your teen is very social and a bit of an extrovert, those moments where they want to chat are important to them. So it’s important that you take the time to let them have those moments with you. Here’s some tips that have really worked for me over the years and still do today when I’m interacting with my now grown up kids. 

Know What Your Style Is For Shifting Your Behavioral Habits

One of the tools I was introduced to many years ago, and fell in love with was the DISC Behavioral Assessment. This online assessment identifies your DISC Personal Style. It gives you a way to understand through a report what your DISC needs, emotions and fears are. 

DISC is an acronym and stands for – Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance – the Four Primary Styles. Some of the reports we have today use Birds as these are a great way to remember the Four Styles – D Eagle, I Parrot, S Dove and C Owl. You have access to all four styles in your personality, however one or two will be your preferred way of being. It all depends on the situation you’re in. 

Behavior is observable and each of the Four Styles have a different Life Focus and Speed – the rate at which they operate in life.  Eagles and Owls like to focus on tasks whereas Doves and Parrots  like to focus on people. When it comes to the speed of carrying out tasks, the Eagles and Parrots have a fast space, whereas Doves and Owls have a slow pace. 

So, here’s a tip, if you know what to look for in others you can definitely start to identify their DISC Style. Think about one of your kids for a moment. Do they have a fast space and like to focus on tasks? Then they are an Eagle. Or do they have a fast space and like to focus on people most of the time and are very trusting? Then they are a Parrot. 

Remember I said that each style has different needs and fears. Get to the point with Eagles, always include Parrots in the conversation, give Doves time to process their thinking and give Owls plenty of the details when focusing on a task. If you want to find out what style you are, why not take our free DISC Assessment. Take the DISC Summary Report    

Practice Active Listening Skills

Some of you might be thinking, “What does she mean by active listening?” Active listening in simple words refers to a pattern of listening that keeps you engaged with your teenager in a positive way. It is the process of listening attentively while they speak, paraphrasing (restating) and reflecting back what is said, and withholding judgment and advice. 

Eagles and Parrots tend to find listening rather challenging. Doves are patient and listening comes naturally to them. Owls listen for the details and always ask plenty of questions. If you’re an Eagle parent this can be rather frustrating, as you really just want them to get to the point! Here are some great tips for developing active listening skills:


  1. Avoid daydreaming. It is impossible to attentively listen to someone else and your own internal voice at the same time.
  2. Show interest by asking questions to clarify what is said. Ask open-ended questions to encourage your teen to speak. Avoid closed yes-or-no questions that tend to shut down the conversation.
  3. Avoid abruptly changing the subject while your teen is talking. Do not prepare your reply while they are speaking. The last thing they say may change the meaning of what has already been said.
  4. Shut down your internal dialogue while listening. Be open, neutral, and withhold judgment while listening. Be patient while you listen. We are capable of listening much faster than others can speak.

Remember that changing a habit takes time, so persevere and be kind to yourself. With commitment you’ll get there. If you like these tips please leave a comment and share them with your friends. Also you might like to join our Facebook group here Parents with Tweens and Teens for more resources and support.