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Why Don’t Teens Listen?

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By Alyson O’Mahoney

They just don't understand," says Nicole, who, at 15, finds her parents to be so exasperating she could scream.

"She never listens," says Tom, her father, who on more than one occasion has raised his voice in a rage to get through to her.

Put one and one together, and you have the perfect equation for communication breakdown.

When your family explosion happens (and it probably will), keep in mind that behind their terrifically bored exteriors, most teens are listening. Experts are more concerned about the adolescent who doesn't turn a deaf ear.

Dr. John Gray, the family therapist who achieved fame with his Mars/Venus books, believes teens appear to stop listening as part of a natural, necessary progression to adulthood. In Children Are from Heaven: Positive Parenting Skills for Raising Cooperative, Confident, and Compassionate Children, Gray explores why kids shut down and shut out parents.

As Dr. Gray points out in his book, "Up until 13 years old, children do not have the capacity to form their own opinions, and they depend on their parents to decipher all information for them." A young child cannot fully distinguish fact from fiction. By 13, the brain "clicks on" and can switch from concrete to abstract thinking.

Readers' Comments

Kim Moya, Beaufort, SC 01/12/09

My situation is that my teen daughter does hear me, but she does certain things anyway to rebel against me. It seems the more I try to gain control over a situation, the more she rebels. If I try to educate, she gets upset and acts "all knowing" and feels as if I think she is stupid. She is really good with everything I discuss with her except for one subject: her ex boyfriend who is unhealthily obsessed with her.

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