Activities to Teach Teens to Think Before They Speak

By Carrie Cross
Teaching your teen responsibility for her speech is a family effort.
Teaching your teen responsibility for her speech is a family effort.

Your teenager may look like an adult, but there are still physical and psychological changes going on that affect her reactions and responses to events. Teaching your child the art of self-control and diplomacy is not going to happen overnight. But with patience, and sometimes some constructive discipline, you can teach her how to evaluate upsetting and difficult events, and respond with calmness and a level head.

Pause to Reflect

Helping your teen understand that what he feels influences what he says helps him learn emotional control. Have your teen make a list of every emotional situation he can think of. After each experience, have him write down how he handled it, whether it was positive or negative. Go over the list with him and ask him to remember what led up to each reaction. For those emotions he didn’t do as well with, talk about how he might do it differently next time. For the positive reactions, go over the process he used and see how he can apply it to other situations.

My Way or the Highway

Teenagers sometimes feel backed into a corner. This can lead to an involuntary outburst of negative reactions. To teach your teen about the importance of respect, and of belonging to and being a contributing member of a group, such as the family, try this team building activity from the University of Illinois. Sitting with the group or family, get a discussion going around the following questions: "Is volunteering a way to learn to be responsible? Should I only compete with myself? As part of a team, who do I put first – me or the team?" After each question, ask why and why not.

White Lies vs. Honesty

Oh, that little white lie. Often thought to be necessary and one step above honesty, how do you teach your teen to be tactful without blurting out a hurtful truth? Your teen may want to tell his best friend the truth about his lack of athletic ability, but how can he do it without hurting his friend’s feelings? Should he cop out and tell the white lie or be honest? This activity from the U.S. Department of Education may help put things in perspective. Help your teen find stories or books where the characters struggle with telling a lie and how they handle it. What is the outcome? How would they handle the same situation? Talk about your child’s friend. Is there anything positive your teen can say about his friend’s ability? Does his friend have an area of expertise that your teen can stress?

Break the Habit

Some teens use derogatory words or phrases without even realizing that they are making a slur or hurting someone. To break this cycle and to help your teen become more aware of her speech, start a dialogue about bad habits she may have broken in the past. How did she do it? What was her state of mind when she decided enough was enough? Ask her what the temptation is to use unkind language and what she gains by it. Go over some strategies to stop the behavior, like correcting herself as soon as she says it or thinking about the negative aspect of what she's saying. Role-play some scenarios with her to help her feel comfortable with her decision.

About the Author

Carrie Cross has been writing for profit and pleasure for more than 35 years. Her background includes business, real estate, entrepreneurship, management, health and nutrition. A registered nurse, she has published various pieces, including web content, numerous newspaper and magazine articles and columns and six books.