Skip to content

The Shut-Up Challenge

Be quiet

There is nothing more destructive to your relationship with your adolescent child than constant lecturing, moralizing, and warning.

There is nothing so demeaning as assuming your child can’t think for himself. There is nothing so disrespectful as throwing your child’s mistakes back in his face and condemning him. Keep in mind that I am referring to teenagers here, not your 2-year-old.

So, here is my advice…until you have a better understanding of how to handle it – JUST SHUT UP!

If you invited your teenager to come hear your lecture about his life’s mistakes, how do you think he would respond? Do you think he’d show up? If he did show up, would he feel great about it when you’re finished?

“Sure Mom, I’d love to hear you drone on and on…I like being lectured, warned, and criticized about absolutely everything.”


Yet, that is exactly what your child may be feeling about the way you communicate with him or her.

So, I encourage you to take the “Shut-up Challenge”…

I’m not trying to be rude in saying “shut up” (it is a no-no in some households) but I am dead-serious. Just shut up! In case I haven’t made myself clear enough, that means, be quiet, stay silent, zip it, don’t speak.

Try it for a day, and watch what happens. When your teenager drops a “jewel” on you and says something you feel needs “correcting,” just be quiet. Don’t flip out, argue, or try make it right. Just let it go. Stop lecturing, start listening.

You may be surprised to find that:

1. You can’t do it! You just can’t keep quiet. You are not a good listener, and that listening to your child is an area you need to grow in.

2. Your child has a mind of his own, and is fully able to use it without constantly pointing him in the direction you think he needs to go.

3. Your child wants to talk to you more when you don’t verbally beat him down every opportunity you get.

4. Your child has ideas of his own that are different from yours, perhaps he doesn’t want what you want, and you need to change your mind about some things.

5. Your child may learn the important lessons in one teachable moment, and you don’t need all that other verbal garbage to make your point.

“But Mark,” you say, “I can’t teach my child what he needs to know by being quiet!”

Yes you can – you can, and most of the time you should, because most of the time, your teen isn’t saying anything earth-shattering or profound….he is just processing what’s happening in his world.

For those times you need to address an “issue” I recommend trying a different approach. Instead of making your point, try asking a question. Not a rhetorical question either – that’s just back-alley lecturing. Asking the right question may help him arrive at the right answer in a way that engages his thinking process and system of beliefs. You may be surprised to find he comes to the right conclusion all on his own.

For example:

I never thought of it that way, what makes you think so?

What do you think will happen if…?

Success in the Shut-up Challenge means you create a space in your relationship with your child by taking a verbal step backwards. This will allow your child to move toward you. Give your child room to ask some questions of his own and come to his own conclusions.

Instead of always pushing to lead the discussion, or to turn it into a one-way lecture, you might just be invited by your teen to participate in the best two-way discussion you’ve ever had.



Mark Gregston

(Reprinted from the May, 2007 blog)


More articles from Mark Gregston can be found at


Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.