Elva dressed as a fairy

Note To Parents: What *Not* To Say

Jan. 10, 2020
(Photo: Georgijevic/Getty Images)

No offense to parents out there, but even the best of you can shut us down when we need you the most. We know you don’t mean it! So we put together this little guide on how to talk and listen in ways that’ll convince us you have our backs. Pick which response you (or your parent) would have to each scenario and see how those actions affect what we do next.

Scenario 1

Me: “Hey mom, why’d you go through my phone? I told you nothing happened last night. If you had just asked, I would have let you look through it.”
(Yelling) “I had to! You seemed upset when you came home.”
(Calmly) “I’m sorry. I was just worried about you. Next time I’ll talk to you first.”

Scenario 2

I want to go out to the movies with friends for a midnight showing of my favorite series.
“If you create a plan for how you’re gonna get there and the precautions you’ll take to stay safe and in touch with me, then we can continue this conversation.”
“I’m sorry, I'll have to put my foot down and say no. It’s just not safe enough in the city at night to be going to a movie.”

Scenario 3

Me: “I feel like you don’t pay enough attention to me. It’s beginning to affect me because I feel neglected.”
“I didn’t realize that was how you felt. How could we work on this together?”
“You don’t ever come to me, so how would I know? Don’t you ever talk to me in that tone.”

Scenario 4

Me: “I’m really stressed out about my upcoming test in history. I haven’t been doing so well in this class and I don’t know what to do.”
“Is there a specific part that you are struggling with? Is there anything I could do to help you out?”
“You just need to study and try harder, that’s all.”

Scenario 5

Me: “Sometimes, it’s like I’m in my own world because it feels like no one is listening and no one cares to even understand me.”
“What do you mean you’re in your own world? There are so many people around you! Are you criticizing how I raised you? I haven’t done anything wrong. I always listen to you! This conversation is OVER. Go to your room.”
“Thank you for letting me know how you feel. Let’s talk about it. I want to hear you out.”

Scenario 6

On your only off day of the month, I come up to you and ask if you want to hang out. Me : “Hey Dad, I saw this flyer about the Art and Soul festival and it seems really cool! Do you think we could go?”
“Okay, we can go! Maybe for just an hour? And then we can go somewhere less crowded, like grab ice cream?”
“I’m sorry. Those kinds of scenes are too crowded and noisy for me, and I’m not that interested in it anyway. I need to lay low this weekend. Daddy is just too tired.”

Scenario 7

I’m talking about my class schedule for the upcoming school year. I’m really confused about why I need to take trigonometry. I think schools should just get rid of math altogether and I should get to choose what I want to learn.
You listen to the explanation all the way through and relate to my feelings — maybe saying, “Math wasn’t my favorite either!” or “That’s how I felt about French.” And then you go on: “But structure is necessary. It’s good to be exposed to everything because you won’t know what you like until you try it.”
You interrupt me midway through my explanation and tell me: “The choice shouldn’t be yours because a lot of kids would not be ready to make that decision. It would be chaos!”
Credits: Lauren Barber, Sydney Livingston, Zoe Harwood, Devin Glover, Marjerrie Masicat, Radamés Ajna
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Dr. Danielle Ramo, Ph.D. at Hopelab and Naomi N. Burks, M.A. for their expert advising on this project.