Why you should never 'freak out,' no matter what your teenage kid tells you

Author Rosalind Wiseman, whose book inspired the movie Mean Girls, shares her insight on how to get your kids to open up to you.

Author who inspired Mean Girls shares insight on how to get your teens to open up

The movie Mean Girls was based on Rosalind Wiseman's 2002 bestseller Queen Bees and Wannabes. The American author shared her parenting insight with CBC's The Calgary Eyeopener. (The Associated Press)

Your teenage kid won't talk to you. You pick them up from school and ask how their day was, and they mumble a distracted "fine" as their thumb scrolls over their phone.

You feel like your kids are shutting you out, so the worrywart in you begins to covertly monitor their social media channels, searching for some tidbit of insight into their lives.

Sound familiar?

All you want is to understand what's going on in their lives. Why can't you get your kids to open up to you?

Author Rosalind Wiseman, whose book Queen Bees and Wannabes inspired the movie Mean Girls, offered this analogy in an interview with CBC's The Calgary Eyeopener.

Wiseman says parents should resist the temptation to demand that their kids tell them everything that's happening in their lives. (The Canadian Press)

Imagine you've just come off a long day of work, and as soon as you walk in the door your child greets you with a barrage of questions.

"How was your day? Did you answer all of your emails? How was that person who sabotages you at work? I read a book about you. Should we talk about it?" Wiseman mimicked. 

What you really want is to take off your shoes, grab a beer or a glass of wine and think about anything besides work.

Teenagers, just like adults, need a moment to decompress after a long, tiresome day, Wiseman explained.

"The last thing they wanna do is talk."

Be the adult, not another teen

Wiseman said parents can and should be involved in their kids' lives, but for the most part, they need to be "behind-the-scenes involved." That means giving your kids space to make decisions and learn from their mistakes.

No matter what happens or what your kids tell you, abide by this cardinal rule, advises Wiseman.

"Do not freak out. Because our kids will stop talking to us if we freak out."

Not only will you be acting from a place of impulse and anxiety if you freak out — which is basically acting like a teenager — but you'll also likely make the circumstances worse, Wiseman said.

In her work with teenage boys and girls, Wiseman said there's one thing she's heard loud and clear.

"Even if they think they have a good reason, if they freak out, I'm gonna stop talking to them about other things, because they have taken over. They've taken control, and then I have no control over my life. I'm not gonna talk to them anymore."

Try this response instead

When your child comes to you with a problem, if they're being general about it, ask for some specifics to get a sense of where they're at.

"No matter what the answer is, what I would say to your child is, 'Wow, I'm really sorry that happened. Thank you for trusting me. Together, we're gonna figure out how you can get a little more control over this situation.'"

With files from the The Calgary Eyeopener