Ready to end the power struggles with your parents? Here’s how you can communicate with your parents when you feel like your parents never listen!
Parenting is a two-way street. As with all relationships, both parties need to feel heard. And sometimes the parent/child dynamic can lead to one-way communication.
I’ll be honest. I have a controlling personality type. I’m a planner, and I want things to be done my way. As a result, my girls sometimes feel like I’m railroading the conversation. They don’t feel heard. So today I’m deviating from my typical parenting post and giving kids a guide on how to effectively communicate with controlling parents (like me).
Here are 8 strategies to get your parents to listen
1. Master the Timing
There’s a time and a place for every conversation. It’s very difficult to have open, honest communication with your parents while you’re sitting at your siblings baseball game, or when you’re late for school.
Find a time when both you and your parents can give your complete, undivided attention. Let them know it’s an important conversation. Put the phones away and avoid doing other tasks.
It might be best to schedule this time with your parents. A simple “Mom, I’d like to talk to you about something important today. When will you have time to sit down for a conversation?” will work.
2. Take the Pressure Off
Whether you’re making a case for a change in house rules, or seeking support on some other topic, start the conversation by taking the pressure off your parents. Acknowledge that this is just a discussion and you’re not expecting any decisions or changes.
It might sound like this: “Mom, I want to talk about something that is bothering me. I realize you may not be able to make a decision on the topic right now, but I want to have this conversation so you can consider my point of view.”
3. Practice Using Your Calm Voice
It’s nearly impossible to have effective conversations when your emotions are out of control. So do your very best to keep your cool. Use a calm voice. Practice easy calming strategies.
Pro-Tip: one of my favorite parenting tricks is to lower your voice to a whisper when kids start to raise their voice. Oftentimes, people will naturally mimic your tone and volume during a conversation. You can use this trick on your parents!
4. Use “I” Statements
One of the quickest ways to put your parents into a defensive mode is to attack them with “you” statements. If you use “I” statements, you’ll set a completely different tone.
For example, if you say “You never listen to me. You never let me do the things I want to do. You control everything I do.” your parents will likely start defending their behavior.
But if you say “I do not feel heard. I don’t feel like I have any freedom, and I want to be able to make some decisions for myself.” your concerns will likely be well-received.
In other words, share your perspective. Avoid making statements from your parents’ perspective.
5. Practice Active Listen
Listening is a two way street. If you feel like your parents never listen, there’s a good chance they feel the same about you. So step up your listening skills.
If you’ve engaged in a number of power struggles over a particular topic, your parents might be reluctant to share their thoughts again. Ask nicely and agree to listen calmly.
When your parents are sharing their thoughts, actually listen. Give them your undivided attention. Make eye contact. Avoid the temptation to jump in and argue. Acknowledge your parents thoughts and concerns. Confirm that you understand where they are coming from.
It might sound like this: “I hear you saying you want me to be safe. I understand you are trying to protect me from making mistakes.”
6. Offer Solutions
One of the best ways to come out of a difficult conversation with a positive result is to think through potential solutions ahead of time. Think about what a reasonable compromise would be. How can you meet in the middle?
Share your potential solutions with your parents. And remind them that you’re not expecting an answer right now, but agree to talk about the topic again in the near future.
7. Know When to Take a Break
It’s ok to not have a resolution at the end of a conversation. Sometimes a conversation is just about presenting ideas for everyone to think about. Once you’ve touched on all your topics, walk away from the discussion so everyone can digest the information.
If the conversation isn’t going well and tempers are starting to flare, suggest tabling the topic for a while. You can say something like “It seems like we’re all getting frustrated. Let’s talk about this again after dinner so we have time to cool off.”
8. Ask for Professional Help
If you just can’t get through a civil conversation with your parents, suggest getting some professional help. A therapist, counselor, or mediator may be able to help you get through difficult conversations.
When nothing else works…
I firmly believe that parenting is about building amazing, life-long relationships with kids. And relationships are a two way street. They are not dictatorships. But I recognize that some parents rule with an iron fist. This is called Authoritarian Parenting. It’s sometimes called “Because I said so” parenting. It’s generally not as effective as other parenting strategies, but it’s a choice some parents make. If this sounds like your family, you can still attempt to have open, honest communication. But you can only control yourself. And if your parents aren’t open to conversations, you could reach out to another trusted adult in your life for advice (like a teacher, church leader, or sports coach).