FIRST MALE TEEN: You know, sometimes I wish that they would be more strict, like, you know, set a little more rules. I know I'm going to regret [saying it on TV].
STOSSEL: Why would you want them to be more strict? That would take away your freedom.
FIRST MALE TEEN: Because if they're more strict, then, like, they participate more in my life.
Teenagers may not show it, but they do want our interest and want us to set limits. It makes them feel safe and loved. Research actually shows the current teen generation feels unusually close to their parents. I thought their heroes were rock stars, professional athletes, and friends, but the researchers said, "No, go ask them and you'll see." So I did.
STOSSEL: Who would you say are the people in your lives that are the most important to you?
FIRST MALE TEEN: My parents.
SECOND MALE TEEN: Mostly my father.
THIRD MALE TEEN: Both my parents. So it went. We are still very important to them.
But they are hard to talk to. To maintain communication, the therapists advised, don't lecture. Instead, said Mira Kirshenbaum, "Ask questions. Listen, listen, listen!"
"If you ask your kid questions about how she felt and why she did it and what it meant," said Dr. Foster, "she's going to feel that you are a safe person to tell things to. Then you can say, 'Can I tell you how I feel?' You've earned the right now to talk about how you feel because she's opened up first," he explained. "That's how parents who really do have influence with their kids get influence, by listening to their teenagers talk first."
Only after you listen should you say what you would do. The teens may not act like they hear it, but the experts say it will make a difference later. After all, surveys show most young adults eventually do adopt their parents' values.
For many parents, what worries them most during the teen years is the sexual experimentation. By the end of high school, about half the teens in America say they've had sex. It's always tough for parents to talk to kids about sex, especially when the kids roll their eyes and act like they don't want to talk to you about anything. But they do.
Watch John Stossel's special "The Age of Consent" next Friday, March 14 at 10 p.m. ET