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A mother’s tone affects whether their teen will listen

Teens who feel pressured are less likely to respond positively, researchers say

Photo (c) fizkes - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from Cardiff University found that the tone of voice that mothers use when communicating with their teens could impact how likely or well they respond.

The study found that teens feel distanced themselves from their mothers when their tones carried too much pressure or control. On the other hand, they responded better when they felt supported and encouraged. 

“If parents want conversations with their teens to have the most benefit, it’s important to use supportive tones of voice,” said researcher Dr. Netta Weinstein. “It’s easy for parents to forget, especially if they are feeling stressed, tired, or pressured themselves.” 

Support is key

The researchers conducted an experiment involving over 1,000 teens between the ages of 14 and 15 to determine how their parents’ tone of voice affected their relationship and how they responded in certain scenarios. 

The participants were divided into three groups, at which point they’d hear statements in one of three ways from a mother: a neutral tone, a controlling tone, or a supportive tone. While the mothers involved in the study were completely random, the participants reflected on how hearing each of the statements from their own mothers would make them feel. 

Regardless of what the mothers were saying, teens responded most to how the statement was delivered. The researchers noted that teens were more likely to act positively towards their parents if they heard a more supportive, encouraging tone, as opposed to one that felt more commanding and controlling. 

“Adolescents likely feel more cared about and happier, and as a result they try harder at school, when parents and teachers speak in supportive rather than pressuring tones of voice,” said Dr. Weinstein. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that consumers -- especially those with teens at home -- understand how much power lies in their tone of voice and realize how important it is to make their growing kids feel secure. 

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