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Talk Tuesday: Teen Slang and Why You Need to Learn It


If you're the parent of a teen or tween, this scenario probably sounds familiar: You're sitting around the dinner table, you say something, and your teen responds with an unexpected word or phrase. You look up, meet their gaze to find them smirking, and confidently nodding their head up and down. 'Don't react," you tell yourself, catching the eye of your partner or spouse, and communicate your thoughts to them through one look. 

You have a few options as a parent here: 

1) Do nothing.

With this option, the key is to not react. Act like you know exactly what your teen said and what it means. Don't address it, and move on with the conversation as normal. I would not recommend this option.

2) Act cool and respond.

Slyly add on to your teen's response with another slang word or phrase, catching them completely off guard, and potentially embarrassing them big time. Do not do this unless you are sure you know what was meant by the term they used, and that you are correctly using the term you respond with, otherwise, you may misuse the word or phrase. In either scenario, be prepared for your teen to cup their head in their hands and respond with, 'Mom! Don't say that again!' Every now and then you might get lucky and impress your teen. 'I can't believe you used that the right way. Props,' is a great response. If your teen hits you with 'That's an L,' it means 'Nice try, but no.' If they make a 'W' symbol with two hands, it means you used it correctly, and this is their way of acknowledging your effort.

3) Ask them what they said and what it means.

This is my preferred response. Politely ask your child what they said. Ask them to repeat it, so you hear it correctly. Pay attention to what they say. Ask them to use it in a sentence. I do this often with my son, and he usually responds positively. I think that deep down, he knows that I'm asking because I love him and want to be able to communicate with him.

Next steps:

The next step for me (after hearing a word or phrase I don't know, and then asking my child about it), is to look up the latest teen slang, and spend some time studying. It does remind me of studying vocabulary as a student, but it's necessary and worth it to take the time to do so. You can simply Google words or phrases you hear, or use A Parent's Guide to Teen Slang (2024). You could even ask your child to teach you one new word each week. This is a great way to keep communication open with your child.

Some things to be aware of-

There are some words, phrases, and symbols that you probably used or remember from your own teen years that are coming back around. You'll recognize these words and have no trouble communicating with your kiddo. Some of these words may no longer be acceptable or PC, so it's a good idea to have a conversation about that with your child so they have a clear understanding that what they are saying (or what we used to say) may be offensive to others.

Slang is ever-changing. One day, you're getting the hang of using the word 'rizz' correctly, and then the next thing you know, your kid is telling you that no one says that anymore. Be prepared to be behind, and to check for new slang often. I have worked it into my evening routine to look up the latest teen slang every couple of weeks, or at the very least once a month. It's not my goal to be fluent in the latest slang. I do, however, want to know which words I need to listen out for, particularly those that might be dangerous.

Just as it was when we were kids, some words are code for unsavory things. This is why it's important to keep those ears perked up around teens and tweens- especially your own. 

Just by taking the time to check out this article, you've already taken steps toward better understanding your child. You're an amazing parent/caregiver!

What are some of the strangest slang words/phrases you've heard your child say? 

Join the conversation in the comment section below or over on MBP's Instagram and Facebook pages.

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