It's official: teenagers less likely to obey mum with a 'controlling voice'

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

If you've ever tried to inspire a teenager to do homework using a less-than-gentle tone of voice, then perhaps the results of this latest study will come as no surprise.

Teens are not inclined to be diligent or co-operative if their mothers speak to them in a harsh or controlling voice, new research has confirmed, with an argument more likely to occur than compliance.

The key to success? Use supportive and gentle tones to get teens to do exactly as you want them to, even if you're tired and irritable.

Lead author Dr Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University, said: "If parents want conversations with their teens to have the most benefit, it's important to remember to use supportive tones of voice. It's easy for parents to forget, especially if they are feeling stressed, tired, or pressured themselves."

The study investigated the communication patterns of 1000 teenagers, aged 14 and 15, when it came to requests from their mothers.

Classic family issues were used as stimulus - like getting ready for school and out the door on time, and completing homework - with teenagers responding favourably when spoken to respectfully.

Communication modes which, "...convey a sense of encouragement and support for [the] listeners' sense of choice and opportunity for self-expression, even while stating expectations for behaviour," proved the ultimate determiner of whether the teens would do as they were asked.

The study concluded that communication style, "... suggests a powerful role for parents' voices that merit consideration as part of a broader understanding of the impacts of parents on youngsters' well-being and behaviour."

Dr Weinstein said, "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."

Co-author Silke Paulmann from the University of Essex, said, "These results nicely illustrate how powerful our voice is and that choosing the right tone to communicate is crucial in all of our conversations."