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ASK MERRILY/ How Do I Talk to My Teenager?

Merrily Preston
By Merrily Preston
Posted on Mar 22,2010
Filed Under Personal Development , Opinions,

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - I am very worried about my teenage son.  He lacks motivation and isn’t using all of his potential.  His father and I do not accept grades of C or lower and are very disappointed in his grades.  I don’t know how to help him and feel like a failure as a parent which is very painful.  He doesn’t listen to me.  I do yell at him when I am upset, which my husband says is abusive.  How should I talk to my son?

Dear Talk,

Before you learn how to talk, you must learn how to listen.  Ask him what he thinks about grades, for example.  Sit down with him, relax, and breathe.  Empty your mind.  See him as an interesting person that you can learn from.  Set aside your normal conversational responses.  Do not wait for him to take a breath so that you can break in with your own thoughts or arguments.  Do not think about how to help him while he is talking.  Just hear what he has to say.  When he is quiet, wait silently for him to gather his thoughts and continue.  When he finishes, thank him sincerely and let the conversation end there.  His face will soften when you thank him.  You may need to be the listener in several conversations before your son begins to hear you.  

Students actually want to do well in school.  Their own personal standards are high, but they are often covered up by parental demands, such as no grade lower than a C.  A child is rarely asked how he wants to do in school, or what he wants to be when he grows up.  He is seldom given a say in planning his own study time or activities such as sports or music.  Children are intelligent beings whose thoughts need to be taken seriously.

Children come into this life with their own agendas.  Parents may think their job is to create a perfect child.  But their job is actually to nurture the unfolding of the child’s true nature.  

When you have learned to listen, write back, and we will take the next step.

Merrily Preston is an Intentional Life Facilitator, who lives in Woodbridge. Her column is exclusive to Local Kicks. Email questions to, or use online form at

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