Validate Your Teen

Greg and Michael Smalley

At the marriage seminar we lead every month, we asked the adults: "What do you wish your parents had done differently during times of conflict when you were a teenager?" Can you guess what the top two answers were?

  1. Adults wished their parents would have listened more.
  2. Adults wished they could have talked more about their feelings.

teenageboywithdadWe also asked these adults, "Now as parents, which things most frustrate you about your teenagers?" Amazingly, the exact things they wished their parents would have done differently are the things they get upset about with their teens.

  1. Teens don't talk about how they feel.
  2. Teens don't always listen.

Communication, listening, and sharing feelings are at the heart of validation. The amazing truth about conflict is that, if used correctly, it allows you to validate your teenagers by listening to them and understanding them. Validation simply means that you value a person's opinions, ideas, concerns, needs, and feelings. It doesn't mean that you agree with what they're saying but you give them a sense that you really "get" them. During a conflict, either you can force your teen to agree with your position or you can provide him with an experience of being heard and understood. The latter option is validation. When you validate someone, you don't argue about what he's saying; instead, you seek first to understand. If you are able to validate your son, he should walk away with a very clear message: "Mom thinks my opinions, needs, and feelings are valuable." What tremendous gift!

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