What tone of voice do teenagers prefer to hear?

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For children, a parent’s tone of voice can make all the difference to their
emotions and responses. A recent study found that teens are far less likely to respond to their mother if she uses a “controlling” tone of voice. A new study looks at the role that tone of voice plays when communicating with teenagers.
The study, which Dr. Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University led, involved more than 1,000 people aged 14–15 years.
The study is the first of its kind to address how people respond to different tones of voice when they receive instructions from their mother.
Featuring in the journal Developmental Psychology, the study included 486 males and 514 females in the target age group.
The scientists randomly assigned each participant to one of three groups. They then played each group 30 recorded messages that mothers of adolescents had delivered. The words of the message were identical, but the women used three different tones of voice.
The mothers delivered the messages in a tone of voice that was either controlling, autonomy-supportive, or neutral.
The team defined controlling tones as those that sounded like an attempt to push or coerce the subjects into taking a specific action, while the autonomy-supportive tone instead expressed encouragement and support.
The phrases were all specific instructions that centered around school or schoolwork, such as, “You will read this book tonight,” or “It’s time now to go to school.”
After the teens had listened to the messages, they completed a survey on how they would feel if their mom had issued instructions in that particular tone of voice.
Those who heard a controlling tone of voice had a more negative reaction to the instructions. Conversely, those who listened to a mother using an autonomy-supportive tone of voice had positive responses, especially in comparison with those who heard the messages in a neutral tone of voice.
The authors conclude that their results “suggest that the way speakers modulated their voice when intoning the same verbal messages affected adolescents’ emotional, relational, and behavioral intention responses.”
Parenting teens can be challenging, and it can be easy for parents or caregivers to resort to using a firmer tone for communication when they become stressed or exhausted or feel under pressure. However, as this study concludes, that tone might not get them the results that they desire.

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