In the movies, teenagers are all estranged from their parents, sullen, prone to one-word answers, and typically found hiding out in their bedrooms surrounded by their possessions. 

While there’s an element of truth to this portrayal, the fact is that what most teenagers really seek is a sympathetic listener, not isolation.

I know this firsthand since I have three children, the youngest of which is 17. I’ve made it a habit to listen respectfully to her concerns, complaints, and thoughts about her life and the world around us. As a dad, I’ll suggest that this is particularly difficult. Being from Mars (as they say) we dads are programmed to find solutions. Share a challenge in your life and before you can even finish your story, we’re offering up solutions! 

The problem is that while solutions are useful and can help, they aren’t necessarily what’s needed when someone confides in you. Whether it’s a poor grade on a test, a disagreement with a bestie, or angst about a party invitation or college tour, the best strategy for any teen parent — of any gender — is to S.U.A.L.

To spell that out, it’s always a good idea to shut up and listen.

You can offer nods, grunts, and an occasional “ugh” or “sounds rough” or “sucks,” but that’s it. In doing so, you are reflecting back to affirm that you’ve heard what they’ve said. You can simply acknowledge that you hear them rather than being the sponge to their tsunami of emotions.

This, of course, is an excellent tactic in all of your relationships. After all, don’t we all want to be heard and affirmed that what we are finding rough, upsetting, and challenging actually is pretty tough stuff?

Don’t worry dads: There’s a time and a place for solutions, too. 

But you’d be surprised just how startled — and pleased — your teen will be if you ask, “I have some thoughts on what you could try to alleviate that. Wanna hear them?” instead of just blasting them with your superior wisdom and insight.

Also, keep in mind that one of the toughest realities of parenting is that it’s all about modeling: Your teens are closely watching how you engage with the world and interact with individuals. If it’s out of sync with their worldview, well, that’s going to be tough. But what a wonderful conversation to have as each of you explain your logic and perspective to the other.

This post is re-shared from GoFatherhood.comclick here to read the full post

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A portrait of Dave Taylor, a guest writer for the website.

Dave Taylor

Dave Taylor writes about his experiences as a single dad with three great kids, 26, 22, and 19, and his occasionally tenuous grip on sanity. He's pretty sure they're related. Based in Boulder, Colorado he is also on the faculty at the University of Denver, a YouTuber, a consumer electronics expert, and a film critic. You can find him online at or on just about every social network. Except for TikTok. He doesn't do TikTok, to his children's great relief!