1. I don’t really think you are stupid and ignorant. I just need to affirm my existence by thinking differently than you.
2. I’m no longer a child, and I want to make my own decisions. When you make all my decisions for me, I need to rebel to assert my independence. When you tell me you trust my judgement, even in small things, I feel validated and don’t need to rebel as much.
3. I feel good when you ask for my opinion. When you show respect for my ideas—as ridiculous as they may seem to you—I feel safe opening up to you. You show respect by listening attentively to my thoughts in a nonjudgmental way. If you can do that, we can start to talk.
4. When you start lecturing, I stop listening. When you think I’m wrong and the issue is really vital, asking questions gently to guide my thoughts in another direction works much better than a lecture. So does showing information from reliable sources. Trying to impose your views on me might make you feel powerful, but it makes me clam up and run away.
5. Appreciation is great . . . just remember that I’m not a kid! So don’t say, “Good boy,” or “You’re finally listening to me.” That would be a prescription for immediate rebellion. Appreciation sounds like, “I really admire how responsible you are about your Sunday job,” or “Thank you so much for cleaning the kitchen. I was too tired to do it.” Basically, show me appreciation in the same words you would say to your friends.
6. Trust is so powerful. When you show me that you trust me and my abilities, I feel good about myself and about you, and I don’t want to disappoint you.
7. When you speak negatively about my friends, I dislike you, not them.
8. I dress the way I dress to assert my independence. And sometimes to gain recognition. If you throw a fit because you don’t like my style, you fall into a trap. You prove I can push your buttons.
9. It’s much easier to respect you when you respect yourself and others. Respecting yourself includes keeping calm and speaking in a kind way, even when you really don’t like what someone else is doing. Respecting others includes your children. Then, if I ever lose my cool and raise my voice, you’ll be able to say, “I don’t yell at you. Please don’t yell at me.”
10. My body is changing, my hormones are raging. I have too many teachers, and each of them gives us work as if nothing else existed. I worry about the horrible acne, the terrifying exams, the popular kid who’s not my friend. The math teacher doesn’t like me, and I don’t know what’s going on in biology. My friends are applying for jobs at a summer camp, and I don’t know if the camp will accept my application. I worry I might have bad breath, and I worry the other kids might speak about me behind my back. I don’t talk about all this because I’m overwhelmed and embarrassed. So please don’t get upset at me if my room is a mess or if I act grumpy. I need support, not lectures.
11. Don’t ask too many questions. It’s sooooo annoying. If you listen with interest and don’t criticize, I might share on my own.
12. Nobody likes to be bossed around. If you tell me you expect me to wash the dishes, clean the car, take out the garbage . . . I don’t like it. But if you say, “We are a family and we share responsibilities. Your father and I work and do XYZ. But we can’t do everything. We need our children to pitch in. We all want to make this a nice home”—that makes sense and I don’t feel treated like a kid. It’s also easier when you show me a written list of chores and ask me to choose which ones I’d like to do. And please, don’t ask for more than I can handle.
13. In my friend’s house, the family eats dinner together almost every night. And they have a rule: No devices at the table. The parents and kids talk to each other about their day, what’s coming up in the next few days, or whatever else is on their minds. I know I text at the table, but I secretly wish we were like my friend’s family.
14. Sometimes I want to be an independent adult. Sometimes I feel I’m growing up too fast, and I want you to take care of me. I actually like it when you know how to give advice in a smart way. You know, like when we’re just chilling, having a chat. You talk to me like one adult talking to another, and you give me a little advice—sort of in a friendly, caring way, but not a bossy, top-down way. Not often; once in a while. I kind of like that.
15. It might be awkward and not my style right now to say it, but I do love you. I’ve always loved you. I think one day I’ll be able to say it again. In the meantime, bear with me.
Principles of Education and Guidance, ch. 14; Ethics of Our Fathers 4:12, and Bartenura and Rabbeinu Yonah ad loc.; Tanchuma, Beshalach 26; Mishneh Torah, Hilchot TalmudTorah 5:12; Rashi, Exodus 17:9; Sefer ha-Sichot 5704, pp. 92–94; Igrot Kodesh of the Rebbe Rayatz, vol. 4, pp. 302–3; Igrot Kodesh of the Rebbe, vol. 12, p. 100.
*Originally published on Chabad.org