Cracking Your Teen’s Communication Codes

Does your teen speak a completely different language than you?

I’m not talking about knowing the meaning behind popular text-speak like TTYL, BRB, LMAO, and LOL… 

Or even the less obvious ones like ILY, SMDH, ILYK, TF, AF and KHYYB

….Ok that last one I made up. It was a test. 

Even without these fun codes, it can be a challenge to communicate clearly with your teen or tween. 

From their limited ability to pay attention for the duration of a conversation (even when their cellphone isn’t in their hand stealing their gaze) to eye rolls and sighs that are apparently “just how I express myself, mom, ugh!” It can be really tough to build that all important connection respectfully.  

To add to this, parents are reporting that they are resorting more and more to texting their teens in order to get through to them and maintain a relationship. 

But, when most communication happens digitally, its challenging to discern tone and intent, leaving teens and parents completely misinterpreting each others points. 

Inevitably, feelings get hurt. 

We all want to be able to talk to our teens in a way that is respectful and open and we want the same respect in return. So how do we get it? Well, we have to first decode our teens communication style. This is the first post in a series of blogs that will be diving into the 4 main communication styles: Aggressive, Assertive, Passive, and Passive Aggressive. Read on if you want to understand why your teen talks to you the way they do (HINT: It’s not what you think).


Technically speaking, there are only three communication styles:

Assertive communication

Passive communication

Aggressive communication

But sometimes we get creative and mix and match with passive-aggression (I say “we” because there isn’t a single one of us out there who hasn’t dabbled in all of these communication styles). 

Passive-Aggression is used so commonly that we think of it as a communication style in and of itself, but actually it is just the result of communication blueprints that draw from passive and aggressive strategies. 

What are communication blueprints?

Communication blueprints are the lessons we learned and strategies we picked up that we believe work best to achieve our communication goals. 

The blueprints are primarily developed by observing how our parents and caregivers interacted and spoke to each other. Then, they are tailored as a result of the relationship we have with our parents or caregivers. 

A very very simplified explanation goes like this: If we saw that our parents communicated with aggression, we may adopt those strategies because it is what we were exposed to. We would witness the tone they use and we would mimic it. But, if when we talked with our parents using that communication style and they were aggressive with us in return, we may shut down and become passive as a reaction to their aggression. Or we may notice which parent is more passive and then speak aggressively to them, while speaking passively with the other. 

Overall, however, your teen, most likely, has one communication style they use more than others. Pay attention over the next few weeks to see which communication style YOUR teen is a pro at.

Want to know how to handle each communication style? Read more of our strategies for each specific style Here.