We were driving in the car with our son Garret when he noticed a Maserati on the road next to us. He started excitedly showing us the car and telling us how he wants one.  Noticing his excitement, my husband started talking about saving up for things he really wants to buy rather than taking on debt just to be flashy.

It took all of a second for Garret to completely tune my husband out and say, “Oh no dad, is this a lecture?”

When your kids hit the teen years, that line between talking and lecturing gets thinner. My husband and I think we’re just having a conversation but the next thing we know, we’re imparting some wisdom and our kids say we’re lecturing.

The thing is as a parent, these “little lessons” just spill out of our mouths. Sometimes they come out in the form of a question in the heat of the moment, as in “Did I tell you about how I earned my own money when I was your age?”  Sometimes they come out in the form of sarcasm, “Right, you’re just going to hang out at some guy’s house when his parents aren’t home and nothing is going to happen.”

The problem is teens often think they already know whatever wisdom you’re trying to impart… as in “I know that mom!” So instead of listening, they blow you off, get annoyed and retreat to their phones where they can immerse themselves in what their friends are saying on Twitter.

One day, my daughter told me I have a lecture voice. She said I put it on when I “think” I am saving her from mistakes. I HATE to come across that way.  The only thing I have found that works is to listen more and talk less. It’s not always easy but with my daughter, I force myself to just listen and not react. Instead of trying to problem solve, point out the  ways she’s being irrational or launch into  anything that comes across as a lecture, I take a deep breath and stay quiet. Then, I tell her I hear what she is saying. It’s a strategy I picked up from a friend who says it’s the only way she survived the high school years with her daughter.

I’d love to hear your strategies. How do you guide your teen without the perception that you’re  lecturing? Is it possible to get through the teen years without offering unwanted “life lessons” that they find annoying?