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Parents need to be very careful with what they say to their teenagers.
Parents need to be very careful with what they say to their teenagers. (Flickr )

"Mom, don't say 'on fleek' ... ever again."

In my defense, I didn't say it when my 16-year-old daughter's friends were around. It was just the two of us, I was pleased with my new haircut, and I'd just learned the phrase. Naturally, or unnaturally depending on your perspective, "My hair is on fleek" is what came out.

She was aghast.

What this taught me is that just because I know the hottest new phrases, it doesn't mean I should use them. But most importantly, it brought to mind the ever-present responsibility of clear communication—how I should express my heart to my child with words. This is more than navigating tough conversations; this is how I use my words on a daily basis.

Here are 10 things parents shouldn't say:

1. "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard." You might be tempted to say this when you find out your teenage son just blew his whole paycheck on an expensive birthday gift for the girl he's been dating for two weeks.

And you would probably have a point. But try to remember how you felt at that age. Put yourself in his or her shoes. It's important to try to see things from their perspective, if for no other reason than for yours to be heard.

2. "You're right. She is a jerk." You should never over-empathize, because tomorrow they'll be best friends again and you'll be wrong. Instead, the best thing you can do is to remain a steady force that listens and offers helpful insight or advice when asked.

3. "None of this will matter after high school anyway." Equally unhealthy in the quest for good parent-teen communication is under-empathizing, or minimizing the situation. You might not care one bit about the mountain she's made out of a molehill, but the fact is it is a big deal to her.

4. "Are you wearing that?" Of course she's wearing that; it is on her body as she is walking out the door. Be careful how you word things. No matter the subject, it is important to sound curious, not accusatory. Try to stay calm, remain objective and explain why you have a problem with what she's wearing. 

5. "What is wrong with you?" Sometimes teenagers don't think things through, and their actions bring out the worst in us. But if we're going to communicate well with our teens, we must strive to stay calm and keep strong emotions at bay.

6. "You're too young to date." If it hasn't come already, there will be that moment when your teenager broaches the subject of dating or sex, and the case can be made that there is no subject more invaluable for you to have open lines of communication. So if he says, "I met this girl" or "There's this dance at school," do your very best not to throw up an immediate wall. It will quickly become impenetrable and you will regret it. (Also Read: How to Talk About Sexting)

7. "When I was your age ..." You might feel like you're required to impart some wise nugget on every topic, but sometimes it's better to just embrace silence. Listen more than you talk, and avoid lecturing or launching into a personal history lesson or time warp.

8. "I'm not going to talk to you by text. Come here." It's true that face-to-face communication is important, but understand that texting is still a way to communicate, and sometimes easier for your teenager. If she wants to talk about something from her text window to yours, consider it a privilege. 

9. "I don't know, son. Did you see that tackle?" Dads, you have more things to talk about with your sons than football. Sports may be a great start, but make sure you don't avoid the important stuff in the process. If you do, they will grow up thinking that's the only topic open for conversation.

10. "You don't study hard enough, your room is always a mess and you need a haircut." You might feel like your time is short to fix everything that's wrong with your kid. The thing is, your time is short, but it's not your job to fix everything. And if you constantly express the negatives, you'll do far more harm than good.

The moral of the story is this: words matter. If you are a parent, God has given you a unique responsibility that can't be taken lightly. Whether you're rebuking or affirming, trust God with all areas of your life—even your words.

Article courtesy of Parenting Teens magazine. For the original article, visit lifeway.com.

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