Let’s Stop Sabotaging Our Conversations with Our Teens, Part 3: No Repeats

Last Tuesday, Daughter #1 informed me that she had two competing offers to babysit on Friday. I was happy for her because as a babysitter, she’s quite the catch and I was glad that others were learning that, too. I asked her what she was going to do and she mumbled something about confirming with her steady-gig-Friday-night family first. I told her that I’d let her work it out and to just let us know where she’d be sitting.

On Wednesday, when I checked in with her she had nothing to report.

On Thursday, the issue still wasn’t resolved. I couldn’t resist:

Me: You know, moms like to have their babysitters locked down, so if you can’t babysit you need to give them enough time to get another sit-”

Daughter 1: I know, Mom!  Stop reminding me! I can handle this!

I was trying to be helpful, but I was failing. I was repeating something she already understood and it was being received as criticism. In essence, what I was offering her was not advice, but negative feedback.

All week I’ve been sharing what I’ve learned from Celeste Headlee’s We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter.  Yesteday I shared how Conversational Narcissism can negatively impact your communications with your teen.  Today, I want to talk about the damage done by repetition.

“Repetition is the conversational equivalent of marching in place. It’s not interesting and it doesn’t move anything forward.” – Celeste Headlee

Headlee explores this point in We Need to Talk.  Research shows that when we repeat something, it increases our chances of remembering it and if we repeat it several times, our chances of remembering it increases. But if we repeat it to someone else, they are no more likely to remember it better after hearing it 3 times as opposed to only hearing it once.  It is more likely that repeating something will make people tune you out rather than helping them remember.

Picture the teenage eye rolls, the silent or verbal “I know, I know, I know!”

Teens get enough criticism and negative feedback from their peers, I don’t want to add to it at home. So, I’ve got to stop repeating myself. Let me say that again, I’ve got to stop repeating myself.

But how do I do it? Headlee offers some advice:

  • Be aware of how often you repeat yourself. Headlee broke her habit by having her teenage son say the word “echo” every time she repeated herself.
  • Get in the habit of pausing for a couple of seconds before you respond to someone. Before you repeat yourself, try to find something new to say.
  • Think about what might be prompting you to repeat yourself. Are you not getting the acknowledgement you need from the other person? Are they too distracted when you’re trying to have a conversation? If so,  remove the distraction. Have they failed to follow through on things in the past?

I’ve thought about this, and for me, it’s fear of consequences for my teens. I know that if they don’t sign up for that tennis camp soon, there won’t be any spots left. That if they don’t get back with the family, they might lose future babysitting jobs. If they don’t get their laundry done, they won’t have any clean clothes for school in the morning. So I repeat, and repeat. I need to let the consequences fall where they may.

And then I’ll really need to hold my tongue.

Thanks for joining me this week. I hope you find these tips and tools helpful. Let me know how it’s going and what other things you’ve found help improve your conversations with your teens!