Power struggles are common between teens and their parents as they test their boundaries and experiment with independence. Even when the behavior is normal for their age, the constant arguments can make home feel like a battle ground. Daily fights with your troublesome teen can be damaging, but not holding your ground on important rules can lead to habits that can negatively affect them down the road. Knowing how to neutralize an argument with your child can be one of the most helpful things you can learn as a parent. While each teen is unique, here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Stay Calm – Remaining calm when all you want to do is yell can be difficult, but raising your voice can only escalate the situation and let your teen know that he has the power to control your behavior. Whether it is conscious or not, getting you to lose your temper means he has successfully manipulated the situation. You are far more likely to be heard if you stay calm.
- Do Not Engage – In some cases, arguments can actually be a productive form of communication as long as they remain under control and move toward a solution. Engaging in an argument on the level of your teen is never going to be helpful if the conversation evolves into yelling, name calling or aggressiveness. Shut everything down temporarily until both parties have a chance to cool off. Explain that you will be willing to talk again when the matter can be discussed calmly and reasonably. Physically remove yourself from the situation if you need to.
- Be Consistent – Teens learn quickly when nagging and incessant arguing gets them their way, so it is important be consistent. Make your expectations clear, as well as your final decision and stick to it with a consequence when necessary. Keep in mind that you will be more effective if you carefully consider your answer before you make a call. A compromise is often the best solution, but making that decision after you have already said ‘no’ can be counterproductive.
- Turn Questions Around – Teens often argue in endless questions as a way to wear their parents down, i.e. “why can’t I have any more screen time? Why do we have such dumb rules?” Reflecting your child’s feelings and turning the question around can often put a stop to the debate. For instance “why do you think you aren’t allowed to play on the computer all day?” This technique reinforces your rules while also putting the conversational ball in his court. Lengthy explanations may make sense to you, but will be lost on a teen that is busy thinking up his next response instead of listening.
- Apologize When Necessary – Everyone is wrong sometimes and while it is humbling, it can help your overall communication with your teen when he sees that you are willing to admit a genuine mistake. A child that sees his parents apologize when they are wrong is more likely to trust their verdict in the future. While occasional mistakes are inevitable, you should still carefully when and where to admit fault, so that you aren’t constantly backtracking and making your word meaningless.
Your arguments with your child not only handle day to day issues, but also teach him how to handle conflict in an effective way. Resolving issues openly; using successful tactics will give your teen an example to model as he learns how to deal with challenges.
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