You’re trying to get some cooperation, or to make a point with your teen. You have the best intentions and it’s going well, until it’s not. At some point (usually pretty quickly) it turns into a lecture.  How can you tell?

Look and listen. You see it on your child’s face, or in the eye-rolling. You hear it in a sigh or a groan. Better to stop now.

But you keep going because now they’re being disrespectful and rude, and you’re going to make your point if it’s the last thing you do!

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Be honest. When was the last time someone asked you to do something you really didn’t want to do? And when they explained, justified, cajoled, coerced or demanded, how enthusiastic were you about doing whatever it was? Were you thinking, “Enough already, give it a rest"?

Lecturing doesn’t teach responsibility. Nagging doesn’t inspire cooperation. What your kids learn is to check out, avoid you, and find ways to wiggle out of what you want them to do.

Here’s how to change your words and the results:  say what you mean in a word or two.  I know it’s difficult to stop there. After all, maybe if you say it several ways, it might actually sink in. 

Sadly, it doesn’t sink in; instead it causes resentment and annoyance, and that happens to both you and your child. The fewer words the better.

Will this always work? No, nothing is guaranteed; however, you’ll be setting a new standard for communication, experiencing a bit less aggravation, and improving the outcomes.  (For more tips on consequences and boundaries, read “Nagging = A Boundary Without Consequences.”)

“Say it in a word” scenarios:

Old words:           Your jacket is on the floor again. Pick it up. How difficult is it? How many times do I have to remind you?
New words:         Your jacket.

Old words:           Your room is a mess. You really need to do some laundry.
New words:         Laundry.

Old words:           Remember, you have to be home by 11:00. If you’re going to be late, call. If you’re more than 15 minutes late, there will be consequences.
New words:         Be home by 11:00.

Old words:           Why did you bring your phone to the table? You know we have a rule about no phones during family meals.
New words:         No phones at the table.

With teens, and most people, less is more. Say it in as few words as possible. Your jacket. Laundry. Be home by 11:00. No phones at the table. Message delivered, time to move on.


Fern Weis is a Parent Empowerment Coach and Family Recovery Coach, supporting parents going through challenging times with their teens and young adults. She helps parents create a relationship based on trust, have healthy boundaries, and improve communication skills so they can confidently prepare their children to reach their potential and thrive through life’s challenges.  

Visit to learn more about coaching and workshops, and to get your free parent guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For Family Recovery support, visit

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the writer.