Michelle Icard is our resident middle school expert, providing parents and children with valuable tips on how to navigate middle school and life as a young person. Read more from Michelle on her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
If you’ve suffered a communication breakdown with your daughter, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what derailed your conversation. Was it bad attitude, frustration, hormones, or a basic a lack of understanding?
The cause may be more simple, and easily corrected, than you think.
A landmark study by Dr. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd at McClean Hospital, a medical research facility for Harvard University, found that adolescents read facial expressions incorrectly about 50% of the time. More often than not, they read your emotion as anger, even when you may be feeling empathy, surprise, shock, disappointment…or even physical pain.
The adolescent brain isn’t fully formed until the early 20s. In fact, the part of the brain that forms last (the prefrontal cortex) is the one adults use to successfully read facial expressions and correctly correlate those expressions to what someone is feeling. Kids have to rely on the emotional center of the brain to read facial expressions and that leads to a lot of guesswork.
Have you ever asked your child a simple question only to have them snap, “You don’t have to get mad at me!” when you thought you were just expressing concern?
The key to keeping the doors of communication open during the middle school years is to practice what I call “Botox Brow.” Don’t ever furrow your brow when talking with a middle schooler. Keep your face neutral and use your words to convey how you feel instead of relying on your facial expressions to do the trick. This will ensure that kids stick around long enough to hear what you have to say!
Watch me demo “Botox Brow” in action: