How To Get Teens To Listen: Researchers Unlock the Secret to Connecting

Teen Listening Parent Dad Advice

A recent study reveals that teenagers are more receptive to unsolicited advice from parents who support their autonomy by actively engaging in their interests and validating their feelings. This approach contrasts sharply with dismissive statements like “Because I said so,” which tend to build resistance.

Research shows that teenagers appreciate unsolicited advice when parents support their autonomy and engage with their interests, contrasting with less effective advice accompanied by dismissive remarks. This approach fosters better emotional regulation and stronger parent-child connections among diverse young adults.

“Emerging adults” — those in their late teens and early 20s — will listen to a parent’s unsolicited advice, but the parent has to lay the groundwork

A new study may hold a secret for getting your teenager to appreciate your unsolicited advice.

The study, which included emerging adults, found teens will appreciate parents’ unsolicited advice, but only if the parent is supportive of their teens’ autonomy.

Effective Parenting Techniques

Parents support autonomy by providing clear guidelines for limitations and rules that will be enforced. They also participate in activities that are interesting to their teens, among other things.

“These parents consistently acknowledge and validate their child’s feelings, and encourage and support their exploration of different interests as they figure out who they are and what they’ll do with their lives,” said Elizabeth Davis, a UCR psychology researcher and the senior author of the study, published in December in the journal Emerging Adulthood.

Conversely, Davis said, statements such as “Because I said so” minus context; “get over it,” and “it’s not a big deal” are the postures that will cause your child to build walls in the face of unsolicited advice.

Impact of Parental Support on Youth

The study included 194 emerging adults aged 18 to 25. Davis said the sample is significant because it was overwhelmingly non-white: 38.3% Asian; 33.2% Latino; 10.4% multiracial; 6.7% Middle Eastern; 4.7% black, and 4.7% white.

“Much psychological research has focused on white middle class convenience samples, so diversifying the participant populations we study gives us a much better sense of how psychological phenomena work for everyone,” said Davis, who is an associate professor of psychology. “It makes the results more broadly generalizable.”

Study Findings on Emotional Support

Participants were asked to reflect on occasions when a parent offered advice to help them manage their emotions. Teens then completed a survey asking whether the parent interaction was helpful and whether it changed their emotional state. They then were asked about their ability to cope with the situation and control their emotions, and about their connection with their parents.

Next, the youths were asked if they had sought support, and finally whether they perceive their parents as supporting their autonomy.

If parents support their ’emerging adults’ autonomy, the teens respond by tuning in to their advice — whether they asked for it or not.

Davis said the teens of autonomy-supporting parents perceived advice they sought from the parent as helpful. But these teens considered unsolicited advice equally as helpful. Past research has shown that unsolicited advice, generally, is less likely to be perceived as effective.

“Highly autonomy supporting parents may have increased insight into how to offer unsolicited support and thus do not fall into the trap of giving unwanted support,” the study authors wrote.

If the parent was perceived not to support autonomy, the study found unsolicited advice was not viewed as helpful. Unsolicited advice in those circumstances “may be interpreted as less sincere, and thus less effective,” the study authors wrote.

Conclusion: Autonomy and Advice Effectiveness

“If youth feel like their parents don’t ‘get them’ or ‘understand them,’ it’s possible that youth conclude that the parental advice does not apply to them,” said Madeline Newman, a fifth-year graduate student in Davis’s Emotion Regulation Lab and the first author for the journal paper, “A Helping Hand Isn’t Always So Helpful: Parental Autonomy Support Moderates the Effectiveness of Interpersonal Emotion Regulation for Emerging Adults.”

The findings build on a body of research that has asserted wide-ranging benefits for children who have autonomy-supporting parents. That includes greater feelings of self-efficacy, i.e., “I got this.”

“Emerging adulthood is a special time of the lifespan, when there are new opportunities for freedom and decision-making, but still lots of ties to family of origin,” Davis said. “So the way parents support their youth during this transitional phase will set the stage for later adulthood.”

Reference: “A Helping Hand Isn’t Always So Helpful: Parental Autonomy Support Moderates the Effectiveness of Interpersonal Emotion Regulation for Emerging Adults” by Madeline Newman and Elizabeth L. Davis, 17 December 2023, Emerging Adulthood.
DOI: 10.1177/21676968231222304

2 Comments on "How To Get Teens To Listen: Researchers Unlock the Secret to Connecting"

  1. stephen p schaffer | June 22, 2024 at 11:58 am | Reply

    Is there a rush at Scitechdaily to embrace wokieness? The lede photo is of a bIack man (father?) and son. Statistically over 70% of all bIack children are born to unwed girls and women. That has been true for decades – and shold explain a heck of a lot of anti-social behavior.
    Secondly, is Scitechdaily following the lead of the NYTimes and every corporation creating ad content in featuring bIack people, almost completely? Did anyone see the ads during the NBA Finals?

  2. If you can’t unlock a teen, send it back to the manufacturer.

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