Me, Me, “MI” – The Language of Teens

Test your Teen Speak skills.  Which of the following are true statements?

  1. Teens don’t like being told what to do.
  2. Teens don’t learn from our experiences.
  3. Sometimes teens resist our advice just to be resistant!
  4. All of the above.

Yes, it’s obviously “D”.  But why?

The answer is not because teens choose to be difficult.  (Although it can definitely feel that way.) Yet the answer does lie within their wonderful (and maddeningly) hard-heads…

Brain development during adolescence deeply affects what a teen can understand, how they hear and respond to information, and their decision-making about risky situations.   Resisting advice, not learning from our experiences and not responding positively to being “TOLD” what to do are all 100% normal for teens.  Unfortunately, risk taking and experimentation are also a normal part of adolescent development.  So, if our usual communication strategies are not working, how can we help teens avoid situations that may influence them to make risky decisions and instead engage in more positive risks that encourage personal growth and development?

Here’s one more quick quiz…

Data shows that the most effective strategy for helping teens reduce risk and change behavior is:

  1. Raising your voice until they hear you (or at least you feel heard)
  2. Locking them in their rooms until they turn 30
  3. Bribing them with clothes and/or screen time
  4. Using Adolescent-focused Motivational Interviewing (MI) techniques

We’re sticking with the obvious response of “D” (but couldn’t resist having a little fun with it along the way…) Adolescent-focused MI helps anyone (providers, professionals and parents) connect with and communicate more effectively with teens.  MI strategies create the opportunity for meaningful, two-way dialogue, increase engagement, and has been proven to increase the efficacy of behavior change and risk reduction efforts with teens.

So how does Adolescent-focused MI work?

The heart of an adolescent-focused MI approach is respect.   The success of this approach relies on enabling teens to drive the conversation.  With a mix of changes to your communication strategies (some big and some small) – Adolescent focused MI can successfully change the dynamic of your discussions with teens.  While some of these strategies can take years of practice – there are LOTS of simple changes that will immediately improve your “Teen Speak”.

To learn more about Adolescent-focused MI, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Download this infographic for some straight-forward techniques you can start using today.
  2. Watch our webinar for a guided introduction to adolescent-focused MI, led by nationally-recognized expert and educator: Dr. Jennifer Salerno.
  3. And check out our suite of adolescent-focused MI trainings that can be tailored to the specific needs of your organization.