How to get your parents’ attention

Published 9:50 am Saturday, July 10, 2010

QUESTION: I just turned 13 and I get stressed out a lot. I’d really like to talk with my parents more, but they are really busy. They work hard and get bossy and uptight. It’s hard to get them to really listen. Any suggestions?

ANSWER: You’re right. To get through middle school and adolescence feeling good about yourself, you’re going to need a personal, adult friend that you can talk to about the stresses of life. The most convenient, supportive grownup might be one of your parents. Parents are usually around the most and for the longest time. It’s true though, that parents are often too rushed or too critical to be available to really talk.

Dr. Lynn McDonald of Family Services in Madison, Wis., has these suggestions on how to get your grownup to listen to you. I think they are very practical. Pick one to two and give them a try.

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SURPRISE THEM. When your grownup asks about your day, say it was AWFUL. Then your dad will talk to you. When you say, “fine,” he walks away because he thinks that he asked you and that you did not want to talk to him. Saying “awful” will surprise him and he’ll listen.

SAY IT IN THEIR LANGUAGE. Ask your parent for an APPOINTMENT to have a talk, or ask for a MEETING to have a discussion. Adults do not understand subtleties and need to have things said to them directly. This is very direct and in their language, and they’ll say OK.

SHOCK THEM. Turn off the TV and say, “Nothing good is on. Mom can we play a family game?” As you get ready to deal the cards or roll the dice or pick the board markers, say that, actually, you wanted to talk to her about something.

SHAME THEM. Say you will pay them $10 if they will just sit down and listen with no distractions and interruptions for 15 minutes. They’ll feel guilty and sit down, and you won’t have to pay them.

TRICK THEM. Go next door and call your parent on the phone. Say what is on your mind. Remember, they always drop everything, including you, to go talk on the phone. This will work.

These ideas are really worth trying. They are a lot more helpful in getting your parents to listen to you than teasing your sister until she cries, breaking a dish, swearing or flunking a test at school.

If you would like to talk about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Lnea de Apoyo at 877-434-0528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out

Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.