How to communicate with your teenager

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First of all, it is not “your teenager” and if that is how you view the teenager, you’ve totally lost. Second, remember the ultimate truth that you knew when you were a teenager and that “your” teenager knows now: Teenagers know things that adults don’t understand. Most adults think this is something you “grow out of” but really, it is something that is ruined by getting old. So just keep that in mind.

But that isn’t really what I wanted to blog about.

I was just sent this post on “how to speak teenage” (which should really be called teenagerese) and as an anthropologist (who studies rocks) I have decided that I can do better. So here are parts of the original posts with my corrections.

In each case, there is the phrase (the thing the teenager says) and its definition followed by the response recommended by the Yahoo site which I shall call “Yahoo-ese.” My correction are in italics.

1. ) “Whatever”

  • An expression that implies that a teen may give in but is not really interested in what is being said
  • An attempt to be dismissive in as few words as possible.

Yahoo-ese: Leave this alone. Do not let your own concern that your teen may be less than thrilled create an unnecessary controversy.

Correct response: “And, yeah …”

2.) “And, yeah…”

  • A phrase often used just as a teen is getting to the main point of a story.
  • This phrase serves to deflate or minimize the importance of the main point…

Yahoo-ese: This is an opportunity to respond in an interested and neutral manner. “I am interested in the rest of the story if you feel like telling me now or later.”

Correct response: “Whatever”

3.) “Fine”

  • I will reluctantly consent, but not with pleasure.
  • An intentionally vague description used when teenager clearly has no interest in providing further detail.

Correction: This term is only used in the Upper Midwest, and it is used by everybody who lives there all the time. The defintion is otherwise correct.

Yahoo-ese: None needed. You have made your wishes known.

Correct Response: “Thanks a lot”

4.) “I hate you”

  • An expression used to convey anger at the moment.
  • An expression meant for ‘shock value’ in an effort to secure ‘alone time.’/ A last ditch effort to get you to give in.

Suggested Parental Response: “I’m sorry you’re upset, but that isn’t going to change my answer.”

Correct Response: “Fine”

5) “Thanks” or “Thanks a lot”

  • When said sarcastically, a simple expression of anger and/or disappointment.

Yahoo-ese: “Sorry, when you’re ready to talk to me maybe we can come up with some other fun things to do bla bla bla.”

Correct Response:
“I hate you.”

That is all.


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10 thoughts on “How to communicate with your teenager

  1. Remember when you were sixteen and thought that your old man was an utter idiot? And then, when you were twenty-one, how you were amazed how much he’d learned in five years?

  2. When daughter no. 1 was little I tried to teach her to say “You don’t own me I didn’t ask to be born” because I figured we might as well get it out of the way early.

  3. clamcyp, I’m doing my damndest to remember that feeling so that when my* Cub hits her teenage years I can at least do a better job of coping than my own parents did. (Hearing some of my father’s choicer comments coming out of my mouth is actually shudder-inducingly unpleasant.)

    As it is, she’s bright enough and clever enough that I shall no doubt suffer a general barrage of comments on the stubborn stupidities of my generation over various obvious and clear-cut issues (namely anything that makes her future more challenging, from her point of view) so every bit of forewarned preparation will likely be necessary.

    As for teenagerese…I have my own methods. I’ve been known to lapse into fragments of languages other than English and Elizabethan Modern English on occasion. Perhaps mutual confusion will help where yahoo-ese fails? (laugh)

    The MadPanda, FCD

    * ‘my’ here used as identification, not statement of ownership.

  4. My three year old already uses “because I said so” as her go-to response to any question using the word “why” that she doesn’t have an alternative answer for.

    They grow up so fast! *sniff*

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