As was discussed in my previous blog post, arguing with your teenager can be extremely frustrating and draining for you, as the parent. I have worked with so many parents who feel so much stress and even anger towards their teenager because they feel like their lives are consumed with fights, disagreements and with their teenager challenging them on an ongoing basis. I remember working with a mother I will call Penny who was at the point where she was so angry and frustrated with her teenager that she entered most conversations with them defensive and ready to argue which was making for a very unpleasant household and was making her feel like she was not a very loving or nurturing parents. Penny and I worked through what was going on for her and what may be going on for her teenager and she began to implement some of the strategies below with great results. What Penny realized was that she was able to change her teenager’s behavior by changing her own behavior. This makes complete sense – if you change the way you are interacting with someone, it will automatically change the way they are interacting with you AND you then begin to feel more in control of situations. If you and your teenager are stuck in a pattern of behavior where you are arguing a lot – you are not alone. This is fairly common and the good news is that it can change. You are not doomed to be in this pattern of behavior until your teenager hits adulthood! Read through the 15 tips listed below and choose a couple that you can start implementing today! Be consistent and you will start to see some changes quicker than you think. Also – if you have not already Liked us on our Facebook Fan Page, please do so to get your free report that will give you strategies for getting your teenager to act more responsibly and also strategies for managing your teenager’s unpredictable moods.
15 Tips For Parents To Reduce Arguing In Your Teen:
- 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. Even if you don’t agree or they are not making any rational sense to you, give them some air time to speak.
- Do your best not to interrupt when your teen is speaking their mind. This will increase the chances that they will listen while you are speaking and is good role modeling. When it is your turn to speak you can remind them that they have had their turn.
- Let your teenager know that you cannot speak to them when they are yelling and respond positively when they stop yelling. If your teenager knows that you will listen when they speak but not when they yell, you will reinforce them really trying to remain in control if they want to be heard (and teenagers always want to be heard!) Praise them during times when they are able to express themselves effectively and help them see that your conversations can feel for productive for them when they remain calm. Of course, this also means that you need to do your best to refrain from yelling. A great strategy is if your teenager starts yelling that you speak softer and let them know that you will be happy to finish the discussion when they are able to stop yelling.
- 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. Haven’t we all had those moments where we end a fight not even remembering what we starting the fight about in the first place? It goes without saying that this is not productive. Keep the conversation focused on the issue at hand and try not to dredge up the past which will likely only fuel the fire.
- During arguments, never “put down” or make fun of your teenager. Even if they act otherwise, teenagers are very insecure and they WANT your approval and to know that you are there to support and protect them. One of the worst things a parent can do is to belittle or make fun of their teenager. This can be really damaging to their self-esteem and it will likely really escalate an argument. This can be challenging for parents who are on the receiving end of their teenagers rude comments or who have been listening to their teenager tell them what an awful parent they are because of course, parents have emotions too! However, it is better to walk away than to say things to your teenager that you will later regret.
- Offer choices whenever possible and allow compromises when possible. And I want to stress the “when possible” part. Of course there are situations where you will never offer a choice (it is not a choice whether to go to school this week or not, it is not a choice whether to not come home for 2 days or not, etc), however, when possible, this can be a great tool for parents in both teaching teens to be more responsible but also for improving your overall relationship with your teenager. (get your free audio program on the How To Parent A Teen website to learn the Consult, Don’t Control skill for parents of teenagers. If your teenager approaches you ready to argue about a situation, try to give them choices and help them weigh the pros and cons of their choices.
- 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 about your own curiosity, sometimes it is better to just leave the topic alone than to argue with them about it.
- 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.
- 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. They can’t tell you that you are not worried but they can try to argue with you that they are not always messing up. Really think about this tip – it can be very powerful and just changing how you phrase something can make a significant impact.
- If your teenager is getting really out of control, tell them that you are ending the conversation for 10 minutes. Let them know that you will take a break 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 and shut the door or go for a drive to allow for this break). If you find this can be effective, try to put it in place during a time when you are not arguing. Have an agreement with your teenager that if start to get into a disagreement and either one of you really starts yelling that you will take 5-10 minutes apart and then come back to the conversation and finish it. Having already discussed this during a non emotional time will make it easier to implement when are argument arises.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do your best to communicate with your teenager during non-confrontational times. Having regular communication (perhaps at family dinners or even in the car when driving them somewhere) will help them communicate effectively with you ongoing so that you are not only communicating during emotional times.
- Pick your battles. Your teenager will test you with what they wear, their music and with the 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. Is it worth a screaming match in the morning before school if your teenager wants to wear flip-flops on a snowy day? Although this does not make sense and you know their feet will be freezing, is it better to advise them calmly that you are concerned they will be cold but then let them make their own decision and figure out for themselves that it does not feel so good being outside with no shoes in the winter. By choosing not to engage in this battle with them, you and your teen have a much more pleasant morning and they learn on their own that it may not be the best idea to wear flip-flops in the winter. Nobody is angry at anybody and your teenager is not resentful at you for trying to “control them”.
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. Try implementing a couple of these strategies consistently and notice the moments where you are able to avoid or head off an argument that may have otherwise happen.