ParentingYour Teenager: Dont Buy the I Dont Know and I Dont Care Attitude

"I don't know and I don't care."

I've heard those words more than a few times in my office. Sometimes I think "I don't know and I don't care" is the universal teen tribal motto.

So what to do?

I remember working with one kid who said absolutely nothing in the first session but "I don't know and I don't care" at least 10 times each.

So just before he came for his next session, I wrote "I don't know" on one side of a sheet of paper and "I don't care" on the other side. I then taped the piece of paper to the couch I thought he was most likely to sit on.

In comes the kid, cracks up laughing, tapes the paper to his shirt, and then begins to talk for the rest of the meeting.

3 Keys for How to Respond

I tell you the above story because it offers three keys on how to respond to "I don't know and I don't care."

1) Don't buy into what they are saying. It's just a way to try to get you to back off, and/or to see if you care enough to pursue them.

2) You simply must keep your sense of humor. Get hooked and get angry and you are dead in the water.

3) Do something different or unexpected. As parents we can become predictable.

If I can get parents to respond in ways that put a confused look on the face of a teen, I know we are getting somewhere.

A Fun Response

The next time you hear the words "I don't know" respond this way:

"Well, you know what, at your age it's OK not to know a whole lot. But if you did know, what would it be?"

I use this in my office all the time. Nine out of 10 times, the kid will answer and start talking.

One time out of 10 times a teen will respond with

"You are just asking the same question in a different way."

To which I respond

"You know what, you are right! And you have also just shown me how very bright you are, so quit playing dumb and answer the question."

In the face of the universal teen motto, remember:

Don't buy it, keep your sense of humor and don't get hooked.

Respond creatively and differently.

Visit ParentingYourTeenager.com to subscribe to Jeff Herring's free internet newsletter "Parenting Your Teenager" and the free 5 day e-program on the "5 Things to Avoid Saying to Your Teenager."

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