How to deal with a snippy or unresponsive teenager


Published: 5 Nov 2019

Emotional well-being

First thing first – give yourself a MASSIVE break and don’t take it personally! The parent who has traversed teenage children without communication conflict of some kind is in Unicorn territory!

This topic is such a hot one for me at the moment (as in 2-3 queries a day about it from people), that I decided to blog it. If it’s relevant to you, then it’s relevant to me.

What will help right from the outset – playing the Name that Ping Game.

Name that Ping works because it’s much easier to deal with something when you know what it is about. So get your teenagers used to the  Ping concept. Tell them what a Ping is – something that provides an emotional trigger which affects people.

Next, explain kindly that Pings happen to everyone – even you. Then carry on to say that different things, ping different people. We never know what pings people until it does and then we often don’t know how to deal with it in the heat of the moment.

Some people wear their pings like a badge of honour, and some people want to flick them away as quickly as possible. Some people tell any poor schlep who will listen about their pings, and some people keep them to themselves where they can either do least damage ……or most damage.

So, naming the ping is a great start.

Common names of Teenage Pings are:


What they are likely to say:  “I can’t believe you didn’t know that!”  “Duh Mum, everyone knows that, you are so……….”

Common accompanying body language includes: Eye rolling, large sighs after a huge breath in and puff out with cheeks.


What they are likely to say: “Why me/why do I have to?”

What you are likely to be thinking. FFS! Their whole life is so tragic just because I asked them to take the bin out or put their own mug in the dishwasher.

Accompanying body language includes: Low growls like an aged poodle, the ‘death stare’.


What you are likely to hear: You always/you never.

What you are likely to be thinking (in a mocking voice in your head) “Because I like hearing what my own voice sounds like when it’s at a level only dogs can hear.”

Accompanying body language includes: Future Botox needing pulling down of the middle of forehead.

Pissed Off. 

What you are likely to hear: “You never see my point of view/never bother to find out/get to know me.”

What You are likely thinking: “Absolutely no idea what I did to deserve that one.”

Ridicule – Sardonic wit really is wasted on the young, because they don’t get that it’s sardonic until later.


What they are feeling apparently – Shame that you dress like that/don’t know that..that you just are lol.

What you are likely feeling – your own pings – hurt.


How it plays out: Playing pass the parcel with things that should have been done. ” If you’d have got home in time Mum, I could have…… ” “Well that’s your fault Dad, because….”

Undermined – This is a Ping that grown ups do very well. Imagine what the world would be like if we didn’t?


What you’ll hear: Why now? Why me? Why can’t you?

What your perception will likely be: You can’t wait a nano second in a car, in queues, for me to……?


How this works – You have to take it personally or you can’t call it slighted. Even though whatever IT is, is usually common place and the usual laws of society/your family/ being a human/ being a semi-grown up. Slighted means that you inherently don’t get that – and don’t want to thank you!!!!!!!

Encroachment into their isolation zone

Think looks and feels and sounds like: Outrage that you expect them to come out of their room to interact with you/eat with you/talk to you.

What next, once you’ve named that Ping?

Deal with it. There and then. Not later. Not when you’ve all cooled down a bit (biggest myth about conflict resolution ever by the way!) The only caveat to this would be if it would be unprofessional or unkind, or very public/inappropriate in some way.  In which case still address it as soon as you practicably can.


Open the lines of communication. Communication means playing Ping Pong not just ping. You can’t communicate as a monologue!

Get your teenagers used to questions that work for you and them.  This is the FLIP part of Compassionate Assertiveness in Action™

My personal favourite is: “Do you think that’s reasonable (name)?” Putting the name on the end is important. It connects to them.

You’ll get a big fat no, more often than you get a perky cheerful yes some days, but it is the bridge back to each  other and at least you’ll know the answer. Don’t stop there. Now you can ask the next question – “What’s not reasonable? Why do you think that? Is there a reason you say that?”

Here’s the important bit – you’ll need to actually listen at this point – not just wait your turn to talk because you’re the grown up and know better (allegedly).

Take a beat to assess what their answer really means and then keep going. This is the choice/surrender stage of the Compassionate Assertiveness in Action™ model.

“What would be reasonable, (name)?” “How do you see this going (name)?” It does not mean you will like or agree with their answer or perception but hey we’re playing ping pong now – this is how it’s played. You never know the other players next move until they play it.

Make your next move mama or papa. Throw in a FEEL stage of the Compassionate Assertiveness in Action™ model? “Did you realise when you do that, I feel……..?”

Or hit them with a CONSEQUENCE stage of Compassionate Assertiveness in Action™ if it’s warranted. “I can’t agree to that (name) so the consequence if you go ahead and do it will be……” “What do you think will happen if you do that?”

I hope this helps all of the parents out there who are dealing with something.

Because I discourage assumption with a vehement conviction I will spell this part out for you. ALL of this has to be done with inclusive, respectful body language, and the only way you will consistently portray that is if your words are gracious, and your tone is not sarcastic, or snippy. Make your hands and language sound like inquiry and respect and you might just get the same back.

The unspoken/unwritten law of communication says that if you dish it out then you can expect it back. If someone dished it to you and you gave it back, then ask yourself where you see that going? What is your motivation? Vindictiveness, revenge, pride? Because that always works so well! (I wrote that in a snippy tone with pursed lips and raised eyebrows  with a slight Beyonce head wobble by the way) and even if I didn’t tell you that you would have felt it even in written word – because we are a visual race. We see things like that, even in emails and texts. So, tread carefully and lightly, Kindly, and graciously.

Go forth and build that bridge back to your teenager.  Set your relationship back on course to amazing. Future proof it for years to come by holding actual conversations and if you’re not getting them asking why. “”Is there a reason you don’t want to talk?’ Be ready for the incoming. It can be hurtful some days. Resist the bite back – it never helps. It just helps you feel guilty afterwards. Keep going. It will always be worth it when you have a 30 year old that it’s easy to talk to, and who actually wants to be in your life because they remember that you never gave up on them no matter how shitty things got.

Your homework parents?

Design questions that work for you and your teenager. So that when you do get the incoming you feel prepared and don’t just leave it and hope it will fix itself. Some days it will be best to leave it, – those days should be as rare as seeing a real live flamingo with its head in the sand. They’ll see your disability to engage as indifference or lack of love for them, and pop it right in their ping can or cupboard along with the others.

Where do they get to air out these pings then? To their friends. Not at all, and blame themselves. To a therapist much later in life. To you, much later in life, when there is absolutely nothing you can do about it unless time travel has been invented by then.

Other questions you could experiment with:

“How does that work for you (name)?”

“How would you tackle this (name?”

“Help me understand your perspective on this (name)?”

“Can you see how…?”

If you find any great ones that work SHARE them. Comment below. Be united with other non Unicorn parents.

And my final thoughts?

Let Love Win. Let common sense prevail. Seek first to Understand. Don’t let your ego change your family history.

Find a way. Build the way. Clear the way. The way is UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

Need more help?

There’s a 48 page book in the online store called – you guessed it Ping Pong. Go get it. Read it. Just $13.

Need more personalised help for you and/or or your teenager? Think about 1-1 coaching.



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