Turns Out, There’s A Science-Backed Trick To Getting Teens To Listen To Unsolicited Advice

It’s been proven that teens stop listening to their parents and start listening to their peers around the same time they hit adolescence. But that doesn’t mean that adults can’t get through to their kids once they hit 13.

In fact, a new study out of the University of California — Riverside has found that teens and young adults are way more likely to listen to even unsolicited advice as long as parents follow one simple rule: They need to be supportive of their teen’s autonomy before they give the advice.

What does that look like in day-to-day life, exactly? The study’s senior author and psychologist, Elizabeth Davis, explained it to Science Daily.

“These parents consistently acknowledge and validate their child’s feelings, and encourage and support their exploration of different interests as they figure out who they are and what they’ll do with their lives,” Davis said.

It’s also about what the parents don’t do. Overly authoritarian parenting that relies on phrases like “Because I said so,” “Get over it,” and “It’s not a big deal” will establish a relationship with your teen that won’t lend them to listening when you want to sit them down and share your adult wisdom, Davis said.

Why? It may be as simple as this: If they don’t feel support from you, they don’t see any reason to take your advice, either. Advice from parents who don’t regularly offer support, “may be interpreted as less sincere, and thus less effective,” the study says.

The study, which was published in the journal Emerging Adulthood in January, involved 194 teens and young adults in their early 20s from diverse racial and economic backgrounds. Each teen filled out a survey about a time when their parents offered them unsolicited advice about how to manage their emotions — and whether or not they found the advice helpful and applied it. They also answered questions about their parents’ parenting style and the connection they felt with their style.

The results revealed that not only do teens listen to autonomy-respecting parents more when getting unsolicited advice, they also actively seek out advice from them more often.

This is far from the first study that has found that authoritative parenting and autonomy-supporting parenting (“You’ve got this” parenting) are perhaps the most successful approaches to raising healthy young adults. Other studies have found that an approach in which kids are encouraged to find their own way and listen to themselves help children with everything from motivation and academic success to social-emotional development and mental health.

On the other hand, studies show that taking away a kid’s autonomy during childhood can have very detrimental effects in those same areas.

Davis stresses that being able to give your kids advice that they actually listen to when they are “emerging adults” in their late teens and early 20s is key to their building a healthy foundation as they establish their own lives.

“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,” Davis said. “So the way parents support their youth during this transitional phase will set the stage for later adulthood.”

This is just one small study, but it echoes a lot of existing research. It might also be a great strategy for getting your voice heard even during those really tough late-teen years.