Teen not taking your ‘unsolicited’ advice? Here’s how to make yourself heard (without being given the side eye)

All it takes is a bit of trust, suggests new study

Teenage Boy Sitting on the Sofa and Listening to Someone Talking To Him
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As wise and well-meaning parents, it’s our instinct (and kind of prerogative) to offer some sage advice to counter the dilemmas our kids face on a regular basis. 

Sure, research has found that 14-year-olds are most open to life-changing advice, but getting them to actually take on board what you’ve said is easier said than done, especially when you feel as though your teenager is tuning you out. If this sounds close to home, we have some news for you.

A new study published in the Emerging Adulthood (EA) journal has found a tactic that’s going to encourage your teen to not only listen to your well-intentioned advice, but to actually take it on board. Involving a diverse range of 194 ‘emerging adults’, the researchers from the University of California, Riverside, asked participants to recall a time when their parents offered them advice to help them regulate their emotions – in other words, cope with how they’re feeling about a problem.

The study group was then asked to fill in a survey asking whether they thought the interjection from their parents was helpful, and if it regulated their emotions as intended. Lastly, the researchers asked if the teenagers were the ones to reach out and ask for their advice, and whether they thought their parents were supporting their independence.  

Essentially, the study found that teens are in fact open to unsolicited advice from their parents, but only if the parents respect their independence and trust them to make their own choices. If teens sense a lack of trust, the advice comes off as insincere or unhelpful. 

Mother and daughter having a heart to heart

Mother and daughter having a heart to heart

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Madeline Newman, the first author for the journal paper, told UCR News: "If youth feel like their parents don't 'get them' or 'understand them,' it's possible that youth conclude that the parental advice does not apply to them. Emerging adulthood is a special time of the lifespan, when there are new opportunities for freedom and decision-making, but still lots of ties to family of origin. So the way parents support their youth during this transitional phase will set the stage for later adulthood.”

3 tips to offer advice to your teenager (without annoying them) 

  1. Timing is key: Choose a time when they’re not deep into a Netflix series or furiously texting in the group chat. A casual, relaxed setting might just make your golden nuggets of wisdom more palatable.
  2. Be sensitive and tactful: Instead of dropping advice unexpectedly, try approaching it like a friendly suggestion. Share personal experiences, slip in some humour and make it feel like you’re on their team rather than a university lecturer.
  3. Listen first, advise second: Resist the urge to jump in with solutions straight away. Let your teen spill their thoughts and feelings first. Being a good listener not only earns you brownie points but may also allow your advice to actually be considered, rather than ignored.

We know it's hard, but trying to embrace your teens’ need for independence, rather than resisting it, could be the solution to making yourself heard.

In other family news, we've asked the experts what to expect when your teenager has started dating. Elsewhere, these are the 15 'life-saving' questions to ask your child if they’re online gaming and a new survey shows teens disrupt sleep just as much as toddlers do.

Daniella Gray
Family News & Wellbeing Writer

From building healthy family relationships to self-care tips for mums and parenting trends - Daniella also covers postnatal workouts and exercises for kids. After gaining a Print Journalism BA Hons degree and NCTJ Diploma in Journalism at Nottingham Trent University, Daniella started writing for Health & Wellbeing and co-hosted the Walk to Wellbeing podcast. She has also written for Stylist, Natural Health, The Sun UK and Fit & Well. In her free time, Daniella loves to travel, try out new fitness classes and cook for family and friends.