Getting Parents To Listen

2011/07/05 in Relationships

Do you ever get the feeling that your parents listen to you but don’t hear what you’re saying? If it happens often, you might think that your parents don’t have time for you and your problems, that they really don’t care. In this tape we’ll mention some things you can do the help your parents hear what you’re saying.


One thing is to choose carefully when and where you talk to them. If you’ve got a question or problem that can wait, think about some of these things before you go to them.

Don’t expect their full attention when they’re busy. If your mom is trying to get supper ready, set the table, talk on the phone and pay the newsboy all at the same time, she probably won’t hear you telling her about a problem you’re having. Either help her and talk while you’re both working, or wait until things calm down a bit.

Sometimes, your parents may not look terribly busy, but are really into what they’re doing. If they’re football freaks and are watching a game on TV, that is not a good time to try to get their attention.

Don’t approach them when they’re very tired or when they seem to be concerned about their own problems. Nobody likes to be asked to make decisions when his brain is sleeping and his normal thinking is off. Even just having to sit back and listen can be a real drag when you’re very tired. And if you know that your parents are trying to deal with some problems of their own, think twice before you hit them with yours. Otherwise, you might get a response like “You call that a problem? If you want to hear about a real problem, I’ll tell you about mine!”

The dinner table may seem like a place that’s a natural for conversation. But there, you’ve got to be careful about what you bring up. You probably already know what ticks your parents off and starts a family argument. Avoid those subjects. Most people look forward to the supper hour as a time to relax and enjoy their food. You’ll have one strike against you if you’ve just ruined your parents’ appetites.

If you’re asking your parents a favor or permission to do something, give them enough time to think about it. Don’t use a hit and run approach–that is, hit them with it and then run out the door. For example, you ask if you can use the car that night as you’re running out the door, late for school. You figure, that way they can’t ask you why and will have to say yes or no right away. But if you pull this stunt often enough, they’ll probably get angry about the way you’re manipulating them, and start saying “no” all the time.

Knowing when to talk to your parents is as important as knowing when not to. Depending on how busy you and your parents are, you might want to ask them to set aside a certain time for you to get together to talk. But more natural situations occur all the time. If you and your dad or mom are doing the dishes, shoveling snow, folding laundry or painting the living room, use that time to talk. There’s already a certain closeness there because you’re doing something together.

Also, they just might be feeling pretty good about you to begin with because you’re helping around the house and may be more understanding when you announce that you’re flunking English, or want their permission to buy your own car. Don’t be too obvious, though, and help only when you want something. Otherwise, this approach might backfire on you.

Something else you might think about is how often you talk to your parents.

Communication between parents and teens sometimes brakes down to the point where you talk to them only when you need something from them, and they talk to you only to tell you to clean your room or take out the garbage. Try talking to them at other times, too, even if it’s only about the weather or something funny that happened at school. If you talk to them only when you want something, they’ll soon be on guard every time you open your mouth. They might start thinking that the only reason they’re around is to do you favors.

Parents are people, too. You’ve heard that one before. But have you ever thought about what that says about your parents? It could mean that they have problems too, and once in awhile, may need someone to listen to them. The next time you notice that your parents seem uptight about something, ask them if they want to talk about it. If you haven’t ever done this before, you might get a weird reaction at first. Keep trying. What will probably happen is that they’ll be more open when you want to talk about something. Good communication is sometimes talking and sometimes listening. If you haven’t been doing your share of listening, you may not get to do your share of the talking.

We’ve tried to give you some common-sense advice on what you can do to help your parents hear what you’re saying. We suggested that you carefully pick the time that you approach them with a problem or a question. Don’t hassle them when they’re busy, tired, and bothered by their own problems. Don’t hit them with a question and run out the door. Talk with your parents even when you don’t need anything. Let them know that you’re willing to listen to their problems.

For additional support and resources please call our 24-hour Teen Hotline by dialing 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336 (TEEN.)

Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.