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.

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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.

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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

This book has been a go-to for our boys as they transition into young men. We thought yours might like it, too! Is he too busy to sit and read? No sweat. He can listen to it here, on Audible.

 

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Mikala Albertson

I’m Mikala. I married my high school sweetheart almost 17 years ago and I’m a (mostly) stay-at-home Family Practice doctor raising four boys and a little girl. I write about the simple, everyday, ordinary events of my life’s journey because I think LIFE happens in the ordinary (and even awful and chaotic!). I try so hard to just be ordinary, on purpose.