You can have the best intentions, but if you’re sending the wrong signals, kids will clam up, says Michele Borba, EdD, author of 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know (Jossey-Bass). Watch out for:
- Body language. Avoid gestures like shrugging your shoulders or leaning back with arms folded, which a kid is likely to read as, “I don’t accept you.” And don’t stand above her -- if your teen is sitting or is shorter than you, sit down.
- Facial expressions. Beware the scowl, the raised eyebrows, the rolled eyes, the smirk. They don’t like it any more than you do.
- Nonverbal sounds. Skip the heavy sighs and groans. (You probably do it without even realizing!)
- Tone. Are you talking to your teen in the voice you’d use with a friend? Keep it casual and conversational.
- Yelling. If you’re not careful, your voice may go up a level. Moms need to use their “indoor” voice, too.
- Talking too much. Bite your tongue -- literally if necessary. Count to 10 and give your child plenty of time to formulate his thoughts.
- Sarcasm. Don’t try to be funny; hypersensitive kids may feel insulted. Save your sparkling wit for grown-ups.
- Anger. Stay as relaxed as possible, even if you have to say, “I need some time to calm down -- let’s talk later,” and come back when you’re cooler.
-- Gay Norton Edelman