Meaning of “Whatever” and how to respond to teenage attitude

The infamous whatever response from our teenage children. It’s a phrase that can be frustrating, dismissive, and downright infuriating for parents. But, before we dive into strategies for responding to this attitude, let’s take a step back and understand what’s behind this oft-repeated phrase.

For teenagers, whatever can be a coping mechanism, a way to assert independence, and a means to avoid confrontation or emotional vulnerability. It’s not always about being disobedient or disrespectful (although, let’s be honest, sometimes it is!). Often, it’s a sign of overwhelm, confusion, or frustration. Our kids might be struggling to articulate their feelings or thoughts, and whatever becomes a convenient way to shut down the conversation.

So, how do we respond to this ubiquitous phrase without exacerbating the situation?

Stay Calm and Avoid Taking It Personally

When faced with a whatever response, our instinct might be to take it personally, get defensive, or even angry. But, as parents, it’s essential to maintain our composure and not let the conversation escalate. Take a deep breath, count to ten, or step away for a moment to collect your thoughts.

I understand you’re feeling overwhelmed. Can we talk about this later when you’re feeling calmer?

Acknowledge Their Feelings

Validation is key when dealing with whatever responses. Acknowledge your child’s emotions, even if you don’t agree with their perspective. This helps them feel heard and understood, which can diffuse tension and encourage more open communication.

I know you’re frustrated with this conversation. I’m here to listen and help.

Use Open-Ended Questions

Closed-ended questions can lead to more whatever responses. Instead, use open-ended questions that encourage your child to think critically and express themselves more effectively.

What do you think we could do to resolve this issue?

Set Clear Expectations and Boundaries

Establishing clear expectations and boundaries helps your child understand what’s expected of them. Be specific, concise, and avoid vague demands or consequences.

I expect you to be home by 11 PM. If you’re not, we’ll need to discuss consequences.

Model Respectful Communication

As parents, we’re our children’s most significant role models. Demonstrate respectful communication by using I statements, active listening, and avoiding dismissive language.

I feel concerned when you don’t follow the rules. Can we find a solution together?

Practice Active Listening

Make an effort to truly listen to your child, focusing on their words, tone, and body language. Avoid interrupting, and show that you’re engaged in the conversation.

Just to make sure I understand, can you explain why you feel that way?

Offer Choices and Encourage Problem-Solving

Providing choices and encouraging your child to think critically can help them feel more invested in the conversation.

Do you want to do your homework now or after dinner? Which one works better for you?

Pick Your Battles

Not every conversation needs to be a battleground. Learn to distinguish between essential and non-essential topics. Focus on the issues that truly matter, and let go of the rest.

Let’s focus on finding a solution to this problem. We can discuss the other stuff later.

Show Empathy and Understanding

Remember that your child is still learning to navigate complex emotions and relationships. Show empathy and understanding, and avoid being judgmental or critical.

I know it can be tough to make friends. Have you tried joining a club or team that interests you?

End the Conversation on a Positive Note

Whenever possible, conclude the conversation on a positive note, reiterating your love and support for your child.

I love you, kiddo. Let’s work together to figure this out.

By implementing these strategies, you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever responses and foster more constructive conversations with your teenager. Remember to stay patient, empathetic, and calm, even when faced with the most exasperating whatevers.

As you navigate these complex conversations, keep in mind that your child’s whatever might be a cry for help, a need for guidance, or simply a teenage quirk. By responding thoughtfully and empathetically, you’ll help your child develop essential communication skills, build trust, and strengthen your relationship.

And who knows? You might just receive a response that’s more than just whatever.

Be kind ❤

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