In a previous post, we discussed why teens are more argumentative. Now we’ll look at how to manage this conflict.
Some conflict is normal and healthy. Your child is becoming an independent and (hopefully) responsible young adult. You might have different opinions and views, which you might disagree on sometimes. However, you don’t want these arguments to increase family stress levels, or break your relationship with your child. You, therefore, need conflict management strategies and skills.
Dealing with conflict in effective ways will teach your child some important life skills.
Pick Your Battles
The most important first step is to not fight about small things. Be flexible on the little things and stand firm on the issue that really matter. These issues will be different for everyone, but the most important one is most likely your child’s safety.
Think About The WHY
Try to remember why your teen is acting like this. Remember all the developmental changes that they are going through right now. These are already causing them anxiety.
Listen more than you speak and show your child that you care about his thoughts and feelings. They don’t always want you to solve their problems. A great tip is to ask if they want you to give advice or just listen. The more you listen, the more signals you can pick up on, as to what is going on in their life.
Focus on the issue at hand
Try to focus on the current issue that you’re in conflict about, rather than getting onto past events or other issues.
Try to stay calm and don’t take their behavior personally
If you do lose your cool, don’t beat yourself up about it. Take a deep breath, apologize, and try again later. Both you and your teen are learning the ropes here. If you do feel upset and irritated, then walk away for now. Think about what you want to say. When you’re calm, you can try to engage them again.
Focus more on the good than the bad
It’s easy to see and comment on all the ‘bad’ things they may do. However, try to acknowledge the good more.
Treat them like you want to be treated
If you don’t like being shouted at, then don’t shout at them. Don’t call them names. Listen to what they have to say – even if you don’t agree with it. Treat them with respect – even if they’re not doing the same for you. Lead by example. This can be tough if your teen is being very difficult and disrespectful. But unless they’re causing themselves or someone else harm, it’s all a learning experience.
Explain why you want them to do or not do something
The old adage “ because I say so” won’t work on a teen. They need to understand the reason why. For example, “Why do I need to go to bed early?” “Because research has shown how not getting enough sleep has a negative effect on mental and emotional well being. You already struggle to get up in the mornings, so if you go to bed late, you’ll make it even harder for yourself.”
You may need to be flexible and show them that you’re willing to negotiate. For example, if they want to go to a party but you don’t know the parents. Tell them that they can go if you can speak to the parents on the phone first and that you will drop them and pick them up at a certain time. Explain that you need to make sure they’re safe and therefore need to know where they are and who they’re with.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t say no
There will be many situations where you need to keep the boundaries in place. They might want a tattoo, vape, or drink alcohol. Be calm and firm and explain that these are things they can do when they’re an adult and that they’re still too young.
It’s okay that they get upset
Expect your teen to get upset and angry when you say ‘no’. That’s fine. Let them be angry for now. They will eventually calm down. Try not to fuel the fire by getting caught up in their behavior.
Don’t take it personally
They will probably hurt your feelings with comments, rolling of eyes, sighs, or worse. When they say “I hate you”, remember that they hate the situation, and that’s okay. Realize that your teen is struggling with many things in their day-to-day life. Be the adult, and let them know that you are there for them when they need you. Even when they’re pushing you away, they do need you.
Get on with your own life
Look after yourself and the rest of the family. Don’t dwell on what your teen has said. Rise above it and move on. They will eventually grow up and this too shall pass. Speak to a friend or join an online support group if you need some support.
Remember that parenting teens isn’t always easy
Staying calm takes practice. Be kind to yourself and your child as you learn better ways of dealing with conflict.
Violence is not acceptable
Lastly, it’s important to note that while anger is sometimes acceptable, violence never is. If your child is putting themselves or someone else in danger. Or making threats to harm something or someone, then you need to set clear boundaries. It’s important to show him that he has crossed the line and his behavior isn’t acceptable. You may need to call a counselor or consider seeing a therapist if their behavior turns violent.