Are you tired of feeling like you do nothing but argue with your teenager? Do you feel like you walk on eggshells or that you always have to be prepared for an argument no matter what you do? Well, you are not alone. Many parents of teenagers with whom I have worked have this same experience. What is interesting is that most teenagers don’t like to argue with their parents, they are just so confused and emotional much of the time that arguing becomes the communication style they revert back to – especially with parents. This article will provide tips for parents who are dealing with teens who seem to want to argue about anything and everything.
It is helpful to remember the following things about teenagers:
1. Most teens have not mastered their communication skills so they may come across as rude, accusatory, as not making sense or as unreasonable. A lot of times the problem is that they simply cannot express what they are feeling appropriately. For example, “I hate you” may really mean “I don’t like this rule”, however, being on the receiving end of “I hate you” is much more difficult to manage as a parent than a teen telling you they just don’t like a certain rule. We have many more Parenting Help Articles Now Available.
2. Often teenagers behave as though they are the center of the world and have a hard time seeing the view of others. This is not a product of poor upbringing or a sign that you missed something in your parenting along the way. It is instead a product of the developmental stage of adolescence which includes self-centeredness.
3. Teens like to show off in front of their friends. Often teens will put their parents on the spot or will push limits in front of their friends in an effort to show their friends that they have control over their parents.
4. As I have written about in other articles, teens want to be independent but are often times not really ready for this which scares them. Teens will often resent the need for ongoing parental oversight and limits which they respond to with anger or defiance.
5. Teens sometimes do what they do just to rebel and to make a point that they are independent from their parents.
Tips parents can follow to minimize arguing:
1. Allow everyone to have a fair opportunity to say what they would like to say. Don’t just keep talking and repeating the same thing over and over without giving your teenager an opportunity to express their thoughts or how they feel.
2. Do your best not to interrupt when your teen is speaking their mind – this will increase the chances that they will listen while you speak.
3. Let your teenager know that you cannot speak to them when they are yelling and respond effectively when they stop yelling. Praise them during times when they are able to express themselves effectively.
4. Do your best to stick to the point and not bring up the past, other situations or bring others into the conversation unless it directly relates to them.
5. During arguments, never “put down” or make fun of your teenager.
6. Offer choices whenever possible and allow compromises when possible.
7. Accept that your teenager is not going to talk to you about everything. Pushing them to talk about topics which are uncomfortable or upsetting will often result in their lashing out at you. Obviously if you are concerned about their safety you will need to push them, however, if your interest in a certain topic is more out of curiosity, sometimes it is better to just leave the topic alone than to argue with them about it.
8. Regardless of how loud your teen is yelling, keep your voice low. Your teen will have to lower their own voice to hear you and in addition, just speaking softly can lower the tension in the room.
9. Try to use “I” statements rather than blaming statements. For example, you may say, “I get really worried about you when you don’t come home for your curfew” instead of “You keep messing up by coming in late for your curfew”. In both situations, you are letting them know it is unacceptable but it is harder for them to argue the “I” statement which is less blaming.
10. If your teenager is getting really out of control, tell them that you are ending the conversation for 10 minutes until everyone calms down some and then you will be willing to revisit the conversation (this may mean you need to go into the bathroom or go for a drive to allow for this break and to physically move from the situation).
11. Remain sitting if at all possible when your teen is arguing with you – this will help them feel less threatened and view you as being calmer which may work to help them calm down as well.
12. Try not to take things personally. Often teens will say hurtful and mean things to parents which is not acceptable or okay in my opinion. Despite this, it is important that parents do not respond out of emotion. It is more helpful for parents to let their teen know how their words impacted them and that it is not acceptable during a non-emotional time rather than to try to tackle this issue when your teen is already upset and not listening to you. Using tip 10 can be effective at this point in an argument.
13. Validate your teenager even if you don’t agree with everything they are saying. Having your teen feel heard is often more important than having them feel like you agree with what they are saying.
14. Do your best to communicate with your teenager during non-confrontational times. Having regular communication (perhaps at family dinners) will help them communicate effectively with you ongoing so that you are not only communicating during emotional times.
15. Pick your battles. Your teenager will test you with what they wear, their music and subjects they bring up just to name a few. Be thoughtful about the battles you want to fight and know that much of the time they are just testing the waters and trying to figure out who they are which will pass in a short period of time. We have many more Parenting Help Articles Now Available.
Figuring out teenagers and how to respond to them effectively is a challenge each and every day. As the parent of a teenager it is important that you get support and have balance in your life so that you can respond to your teenager in a way which is effective and which does not increase your own stress and frustration.