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? Do you come in the door at the end of the day waiting for the next “attack”. Do you sometimes hesitate to address things that you would like to address with your teenager in an effort to avoid an argument. Well, you are not alone. Many parents of teenagers with whom I have worked have this same experience. I recently worked with a mother whom I will call Mary. Mary felt that she had gotten into a pattern of trying to avoid her teenager and certainly avoided addressing issues which needed to be addressed because most conversations resulted in an argument and who wants to be arguing in their own home all the time? In addition, the arguing consisted of Mary’s daughter blaming her for things and at the end of these arguments, Mary felt drained and questioned herself as a parent more and more. Mary’s daughter had “trained” her to back off. Remember, your teenager has been studying you their entire life so they know how to push your buttons, what buttons to push when and yes – they can “train” you so that you behave in a way that works best for them. In this case, Mary’s daughter did not like Mary reprimanding her or holding her accountable to doing her chores or to coming in on time for her curfew, so she made it a very unpleasant experience for Mary anytime Mary did address these things. And guess what…over time Mary addressed them less and less as a means of avoiding what she knew would be an unpleasant interaction with her daughter. On one hand, you can’t blame Mary – who wants to spend their time arguing? On the other hand, Mary’s daughter needed to be held accountable for her behaviors and needed to lean to be more responsible and respectful. So – as a parent – what do you do?
What is interesting is that most teenagers don’t like to argue with their parents (or anyone for that matter), they are just so confused and emotional much of the time that arguing becomes the communication style they revert back to – especially with parents. teenagers are still developing and they have not mastered the art of remaining calm when under stress and pressure (not that I think any of us will every truly master this art!). Teenagers are uncomfortable when you address their behaviors or when they feel “pushed” to act responsibly or even when they are asked to do something they just plain do not want to do. However, learning to tolerate these uncomfortable feelings and learning to appropriately manage strong emotions is something we all need to learn in order to function well as adults. Therefore, these moments can actually become great teaching moments between you and your teenager. Keeping the following points in mind when having interactions with your teenager, will help you remain calm when they are trying to push your buttons so that you are role modeling positive interactions with them while addressing the things you really need to address as a parent.
Things to keep in mind about teenagers:
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“. With that said, 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 so when you hear words from your teenager that really sting, take a deep breath, pause and tell yourself they are trying to tell you they don’t like the situation, not that they hate you.
teenagers often 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 and often an apparent disregard for how one’s behavior impacts others. If your teenager says or does things that are hurtful or inappropriate, they may really not be able to see how they are impacting you or others in the moment. They are so caught up in themselves that they can’t see past their own needs and feelings. Again, in and of itself, this is not a sign that your teen is a monster or a sociopath! It is part of their developmental process which they will outgrow with the right role modeling and support. As a parent, in these moments, it is helpful if you can remember this point because it will help you in not taking things your teenager may be doing or saying personally.
Teens like to show off in front of their friends. Haven’t there been times when you have observed your teenager with a group of their friends and thought – is that really my kid acting like that? Teenagers are trying to grow into themselves, gain their self-confidence and fit in which results in their often times behaving in ways they think their peers want them to behave or copying the behaviors of their peers. Teens want to appear confident and cool in front of their friends to often times they 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. If your teenager does this, it is likely a sign that they are feeling insecure and trying to gain some form of respect from their friends and less about their wanting to give you a hard time or make you feel bad. It is important that you do not let them “train” you into backing down or giving in when their friends are around because then they will continue to put you on the spot in front of others as a means of getting what they want.
Teens want to be independent but are often times not really ready for this which scares them. As we all know, teenagers want to grow up quicker than they are ready for. They think they have it all figured out, until they are really put in a position to have all the answers at which time they realize they do still need your support and advice. teenagers will often resent the need for ongoing parental oversight and limits so they respond to this with anger or with defiance. Teens sometimes do what they do just to rebel and to make a point that they are independent from their parents because they need to start to figure out who they are as a person separate from you. When your teenager argues with you, their words may be telling you to back off and leave them alone, however by arguing and engaging with you, they are pulling you in closer indicating that they need your presence in their lives.
OK – so great – how does any of this help minimize the arguing you are having with your teenager? What is written above are points that will help you frame what is happening with your teenager which will help you, as the parent, stay calm and understand better what is going on for them. Having some insight into what is going on for your teenager can help you manage situations much more effectively. In my next blog post, I will list 15 tips that will help you, as the parent of a teenager, minimize your arguing with your teenager.
For additional parenting tips, resources, advice and programs designed specifically for parents of teenagers, go to How To Parent A Teen. Have you gotten your free audio program titled 3 Powerful Strategies For Parents of Teenagers from the How To Parent A Teen website?