Part of mom life is nagging teens to clean up their room or get homework done, but a new study found that it may not be the best approach. Which tone of voice actually motivates teens to get the chore done?

Photo by Getty Images

Let's start with what tone of voice teens are most likely to reject. Adolescents are less likely to respond to moms with a controlling tone of voice, according to the journal Developmental Psychology. Researchers studied a group of 486 males and 514 females, ages 14-15, and exposed them to identical messages delivered by mothers of adolescents in controlling, autonomy-supportive, and neutral tones. Some of the messages included, "It’s time now to go to school," "You will read this book tonight," and “You will do well on this assignment." After listening to the messages, teens took a survey to indicate how the different tones made them feel and which triggered them to actually want to complete the parent's request.

Turns out, teens had the best reaction to moms with an autonomy-supportive tone. This signifies a tone that's supportive, compassionate, and fosters independence. According to Practical Research Parenting, "Autonomy support grants children agency and ownership over their own behavior, and allows them to be themselves. It is the opposite of attempting to control our children, being intrusive, or trying to make them be a certain person."

The study's co-author Professor Silke Paulmann, of the University of Essex, explains, “These results nicely illustrate how powerful our voice is and that choosing the right tone to communicate is crucial in all of our conversations.”

When making commands and trying to communicate with your teen, it's beneficial to be mindful about what your tone conveys. Teens respond positively to a sense of encouragement and support for a feeling of choice.

Advertisement