My Advice: Don’t Ever Offer Advice to Your Teenager!
If there is a good rule of thumb in parenting teenagers, it is this: Resist giving advice – even if your teen asks for your advice.
If you are the typical parent of an adolescent, I’m sure you have thought more than once about why your son or daughter never listens to you and never seems to want – or use – your great advice and well-considered suggestions.
Also, again if you are a typical parent, you probably have found it difficult on various occasions to stop yourself from giving advice when it seemed to be called for.
For example, Heidi heard her daughter Samantha talking to a friend about posting something negative on Facebook about somebody they both knew. Later, Heidi said to Samantha, “If I were you, I wouldn’t do that. You don’t know what could happen as a result of saying something about people on a social media site. It could all go horribly wrong.”
To which Samantha replied: “Get over it, Mom, it’s just Facebook.”
And when Paul tried to give his son Eric suggestions about his basketball playing, Eric’s responses were nearly always the same: “Whatever.” And Paul never saw any indication that Eric heeded his advice.
But to not give your teen any advice, doesn’t that contradict conventional parenting wisdom? Aren’t good parents supposed to support their adolescents and communicate with them?
Well, yes, that much is true and is certainly well-founded conventional wisdom. But the next question is more important: How often do teenagers want your advice? And, as a follow up question, how often do they actually ask for your advice?
Assuming again that you are that typical parent of a teen, you might not be able to recall very many times your teen actually solicited your advice or suggestions – on any subject. Instead, your perception is probably just the opposite. That is, while you have lots of good advice that you’re ready and willing to share with your teenager, most of the time she isn’t willing to listen to it.
Of course, there is a developmentally appropriate reason for this. Since they are becoming more independent and autonomous, they would like to feel more grownup. If they asked for your advice or took your opinion into account in making decisions, it might make them feel like a younger child – and not like the adult they aspire to be.
However, I do know that adolescents — on occasion — seek advice from their parents. There are some good reasons for this, too. One reason is that no matter how often they act like they don’t care what you think or how much stored up wisdom you have, the fact is they still do look up to you. But because of them desperately needing to break away from you and be their own person, they can’t really acknowledge this.
On the other hand, there are those times when they have a momentary loss of belief or faith in their own capabilities. They, then, may be looking to borrow your belief in them until they can restore it in themselves. However, the catch-22 here is that they can only regain faith in their own abilities by working out their own problems.
Which often means that while you should probably not waste your time giving unsolicited advice, you should also not take a teen’s request for advice too literally.
I have another rule of thumb that applies to such situations: Don’t ever give advice to your adolescent until the third time they ask for it.
If you start with “What do you think you ought to do?” or “What do you want to do?” and they give adequate responses to these questions, but they still want to know what you would recommend, you can assume they are serious and truly do want to know what you would advise.
If you follow my two rules of thumb you might find out what a parent I know discovered. After following my rules for dealing with teenager’s requests for advice, she commented: “The less advice I offer, the more my son talks to me.”