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Of all the parenting hacks you’ll ever hear, this one is the most important.

“LISTEN AND REPEAT.”

I didn’t make it up. I read it somewhere years ago and have heard it a million times since.

Here’s what it means.

When your teenager hops in the car spitting mad over something at school with friends or a coach or a teacher . . . 

You simply listen.

And repeat.

You don’t offer advice. Or disagree. Or attempt to calm him down.

You don’t give solutions or fix the problem in any way.

You sit silently.

Arrange your face in the most pleasant way possible.

And repeat back what you are hearing.

RELATED: As a Mom of Teens, My Job is to Idle Nearby

Acceptable responses include:

“Mmmm.”

“Oh really?”

“He said ______?”

“I can’t believe ______ happened.”

“Ugh. That sucks, honey.”

“It sounds like you’re pretty mad about it. I probably would be, too.”

It might feel like you are pretending.

You probably ARE pretending.

Because your brain will be firing away at solutions and responses and next steps.

But you must only listen.

Nod.

And repeat.

DO NOT ENGAGE.

Do not say the words running through your brain.

Things like:

“No. That can’t be right.”

“But you know that’s not true!”

“Don’t be so upset.”

“You’re overreacting.”

“You’re being ridiculous.”

“What did you expect?’

“You should…”

“What you need to do is…”

All of these responses are the kiss of death.

RELATED: How I’ve Changed as the Mother of a Teenager

Even if you are trying to make him feel better, any of these responses will seem like a challenge to your teen.

He will immediately get defensive. And shut down.

And I know. I KNOW.

Your ideas are good!

You’ve been there. You’ve done these hard years before, and as a grown adult standing outside the problem looking in, you can be objective.

You want to help!

You hate seeing him upset!

But what he really needs right now is to feel seen and heard and understood.

So . . . 

Listen.

And repeat.

It will be hard.

SO HARD.

And 8 out of 10 times, you’ll forget and say exactly the wrong thing.

But when you do remember this hack . . . I promise it will be worth it.

Just listen.

RELATED: Sometimes All We Can Do is Just Be There For Our Teens

Paste on the most pleasant expression you can muster.

And repeat his own words back to him.

Then on your way home, circle through the McDonald’s drive-thru and grab him a Big Mac and a Dr. Pepper.

You’ll both be chuckling over ridiculous (slightly inappropriate) memes by the time you pull into the driveway.

I promise.

Best parenting hack ever!

This post originally appeared on Ordinary on Purpose, by Mikala Albertson

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Mikala Albertson

Mikala is a wife, family practice doctor turned mostly stay-at-home mom to five kids, and writer. She is the author of Ordinary On Purpose: Surrendering Perfect and Discovering Beauty Amid the Rubble available wherever books are sold. Mikala writes to give you permission to release your grip on all the should-dos and have-tos and comparisons and “I’m not measuring up”s and just be free to live your life. THIS life, however imperfect. In this body with these relationships in this house at this job with these parents and these circumstances. Your ONE precious, beautiful life! Join her on Facebook and Instagram.

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