Does this conversation, in even the slightest way, sound familiar to you?

Mom: “Don’t forget to clean up your dishes.”

Teen: “I will, in a minute.”

Mom: “I need it done before any FB, texting or video games, please.”

Teen: “I said I will do it! Why are you always yelling at me?”

Yelling? Who was yelling? That’s my normal tone, my inside voice…I promise.

So, was I yelling or was my teen just exaggerating? Would you believe me if I told you that neither were true?

During this season of a teen’s life, parents’ voices actually sound different to a teenager. No kidding! I mean it, they literally hear the voice of their parents differently. That’s why the, “your always yelling at me” can actually be a real perception of how they process our words–especially the mother’s voice as it registers in their brains louder and higher pitched than in childhood. If your the mom, that’s kind of a bummer, right?!

So a simple question, “Are you wearing that to school?” (from within their volatility of struggling for identity and adapting to hormonally raging bodies) can be heard as, “Mom thinks I look horrible.” Wait. That’s not even close to I said!

The question is, what are we to do? Take a vow of silence for the next four long years and hope for the best…?

I recently found this article that emphasized what is right about the teenage brain. It highlights that what our teens are experiencing in their brains is actually akin to the toddler years when they were gathering, learning and growing. This season of a teen’s life is packed full of new neuron pathways being strengthened and engaged.

Their frontal cortex–which houses logic and reason is developing through their engagement with risk taking.

Another fascinating article produced by PBS Frontline talks about teens’ amygdala, the part of the brain that houses emotions. They say that this part of the brain is still causing our teens to react rather than rationalize.

Often during the teen years, a teenager’s activity level is increased while their sleeping time is decreased. Yet their brains need between 10-12 hours of sleep a day! Last time they slept that much they were just infants. Mandatory nap time in high schools…? I should think so.

So instead of having a screaming toddler who insists that they are not tired and then we can insist on them laying down for their nap, we now have teens, standing between two worlds with a brain in the process of:

  • screaming for sleep….
  • prone to reacting emotionally…
  • and trying to logically transition into rationalizing….

While this might seem frustrating to us as parents, I believe it is equally frustrating to teens. So what are some practical ways we can communicate with our teens without their hearing our voices as yelling?

  • Lower our voice – Notice your tone and trust the science on this one.
  • Choose our words wisely – What is the main goal at this moment?
  • Use questions as an opportunity for them to choose – Do you want to do the dishes before or after your homework?


  • Risk seeing the image of God in them and honor that they are in process.

Daily, hourly, minute by minute we parents must choose to not let the moment (especially the raging out of control ones) define our relationship. Might our own perspective change from wanting to merely survive these years to instead trying to engage with what God has designed as a part of this season of their journey?

What if we as parents notice what is RIGHT about them being a teenager–including their hearing–and all learn together?

Here’s the thing, I think we can do it.

~ b.