Breaking Through

Breaking Through

Breaking Through

Getting Through To Your Teen

Break through the noise in their head, without yelling.


Tip #1:

The voice that breaks through, is the one they didn’t expect to hear

Teens live under the belief that they have to work for recognition and love. They also live under the belief that “it isn’t wrong unless you get caught” but that’s for another time. This belief that recognition and love needs to be earned comes from years of experience with receiving praise for doing “good” and anger and/or disappointment for doing “bad.” Perhaps an even more powerful driving force is the natural instinct to prove one’s worth, especially among the vast ocean of judgmental peers they swim through each day. 

Consider this. Providing an unexpected note, left in strange but easily found places, will catch their focus if only for a second. It’s a second on the eyes, but their brains will revisit what you wrote, over and over and over again.

Simply write…”I noticed..” and continue.

Here are some examples:

  • [Would you like your kid to talk more?]… I noticed that you looked a little sad yesterday. I hope everything is okay, but I want you to know that you can talk to me if you need to. Otherwise, I won’t bug you about it.
  • [Would you like your kid to argue with the sibling less?]…I noticed that you have been trying to not argue with your sister. I appreciate and love how mature you are trying to be.
  • [Would you like your kid to hang with the family more?]… I noticed that you don’t seem to want to be with the family very much. That’s totally normal at your age. I get it. We miss you though, and love any togetherness that you can give.
  • [Take more responsibility?]… I noticed that you are sick of me telling you to do your homework. I love that you want to be independent and so I will stop reminding you. Please let me know if you need any help. I will keep an eye on your grades online and ask you questions when I have them.

Tip #2

Sometimes money speaks louder than words.

Daily Dollar Deals


Money = freedome + cool + attractive

The rest of us with fully formed frontal lobes:

Money = independence + responsibility

Do you see where I’m going here? (cough, cough..out of the house..cough)

Sit your teen down, apply seat belt as needed, and let them know that it’s time to practice living in the ‘real world.’ Explain that in ‘the real world’, our behaviors and decisions dictate how we will live and our well-being. If we work, we get money. If we break the law, we get fined. 

Step 1: Set an amount that your child can earn each day. Explain that they must complete a short, easily obtainable list of basic responsibilities, completely on their own. There is a bonus! There will be no nagging. They either do it and cha-ching!, or they don’t and $0.

For example: 

$2/day when (key word is “when” NOT “if”)

  • Room is picked up by bedtime (10:00)
  • Inside of house by __:00 on weekends, and __:00 on weekends
  • Grades are passing according to online report (regardless of whatever “teacher lost my paper” or “I just took a test and that grade is up now”…..welcome to the real world kid.)

Step 2: You might add some a la carte items to the list. However, I would do so with the understanding that the money may or may not be awarded depending on the quality of work, and only if the teen does not ask about it. If they’d like to write a reminder note “hey Dad, I picked up dog poop today” that’s okay. 

Step 3: Every night, place an envelope somewhere (bathroom, bedroom, counter, etc.). They money goes there. 

What if they don’t meet the expectations? Put a handwritten note in the envelope in place of the money. Be sure to include praise and encouragement. “I appreciate that you completed your homework today. Your room wasn’t clean by 10:00. Let’s try again tomorrow. I love you.”

What if they really, really tried, but couldn’t meet the expectation, but it’s not their fault? Welcome to the real world. If I really really try to get my taxes in on time, but they get lost in the mail, I still get fined. It’s a bummer, and so is life sometimes. Role with it and move on. (It’s called resilience)

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Author: Cristin Mullen, LPC

Cristin is a Licensed Professional Counselor with AZ Family Life Counseling & Coaching. She provides counseling, ADHD and Behavior Coaching services for “struggling students with fast minds.” Find more articles at

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