Do you often feel frustrated because of the conflicts you have with your teens?
No parent wants to fight with their teenagers. So what can you do when your teens argue with you?
It helps to first understand that having some conflict is normal.
As teens undergo a period of rapid change, they start craving more independence. They want more control over their life and decisions.
But not all conflicts are inherently negative. In fact, conflicts can even be beneficial if handled correctly.
According to research, healthy conflicts are opportunities for growth and learning. Arguing with parents can help teenagers develop better social skills and empathy.
As a parent, arguments can be opportunities to show your teenager what healthy conflict resolution patterns look like.
On the other hand, frequent and unconstructive conflicts can be harmful. They can affect your teenagers’ self-esteem and how well they cope at school.
So, as parents, we need to manage conflicts well.
In this article, I’ll share with you 9 tips to manage your teenagers’ attitude and effectively handle arguments with them.
(If your teen lacks motivation, make sure to download your free e-book below.)
Tip #1: Choose the right time and place
Choosing the right time and place is key when you need to have a serious conversation with your teen.
For example, if your teen has a big exam the following day, discussing the issue the night before probably isn’t a good idea.
Or maybe you’re in public or around friends and family. Talking about the issue there and then might cause embarrassment and make the situation awkward for other people.
If you’re caught in this predicament, try saying, “I really want to understand your feelings and hear what you have to say. But now’s probably not a good time to talk. Can we discuss this later at home?”
This also gives you and your teenager extra time to cool down.
Ideally, you want to approach the issue when both of you are calm and free to talk. You also want to ensure that there’s enough time to resolve the conflict without feeling like you’re rushing the process.
And make sure to pick a place that offers privacy and is free of distractions.
Tip #2: Listen actively
When arguments get heated, it’s tempting to talk over your teens.
It’s even harder to listen when you don’t agree with or understand the reasons behind their actions.
You might jump to conclusions or wrongly accuse them. This can lead to bitterness in the relationship.
Remember that communication is a two-way street.
So let your teens share their opinions. Show that you’re listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and paraphrasing what they say.
Listen with the intention of understanding, not with the intention of refuting their point of view.
Research shows that attentively listening to teenagers helps them feel more connected to you.
This also encourages them to be honest with you, and makes them more likely to open up in the future.
Your teenagers need to know that you’re trying to understand their situation and feelings. By doing so, you’re showing your teens that you value their honesty and opinions.
Tip #3: Avoid lecturing or digging up the past
When you argue, do you find yourself repeating the same thing over and over again?
Or maybe you go off track and dig up your teens’ past mistakes?
When you’re worried about your teens’ future, you may end up lecturing or nagging.
This can cause them to become anxious, overwhelmed, or annoyed. Eventually, your teens may learn to tune your words out.
Instead of lecturing, here’s how to communicate with your teen:
- Have a conversation only when your teen is ready. If your teen is angry and frustrated, your words might not have much impact. Wait until your teen is more receptive, then discuss the issue.
- Ask questions to understand the situation better. Try to understand the reasoning behind your teen’s decisions and actions. Ask positive questions like, “How are you feeling?” and “How did you make that decision?” Avoid negative questions like, “What’s wrong with you?”
- Don’t interrupt your teen. If you interrupt your teen, it shows that you’re dismissive of your teen’s opinions. Discuss matters when you’re calm so you’ll be more likely to catch yourself before interrupting your teen.
For your words to carry weight, it’s important to speak less and listen more.
When you listen to understand, you’ll be in the best position to respond wisely and resolve the conflict effectively.
Tip #4: Focus on the behavior, not the person
Name-calling and criticizing won’t help the situation.
Making assumptions about your teens’ motives can push them into a defensive stance and affect your relationship with them.
During a conflict, try to mainly state facts about your teenagers’ actions and decisions. Don’t use negative labels or jump to conclusions.
For example, avoid saying something like, “You’re a liar. You skipped school today because you were too lazy to get out of bed.”
Instead, say something like, “I heard you skipped school today. Can you tell me more about what happened?”
It’s also crucial to watch your tone of voice. Being empathetic and calm creates a safe environment for your teens to tell the truth.
Tip #5: Apologize when necessary
Apologizing is something that many parents shy away from. It’s understandably uncomfortable to apologize to your teens.
But the fact is that we all make mistakes.
Apologizing to your teens is a great way to model honesty, humility, and integrity. It shows that you care about and respect your teens’ feelings.
This helps to build a healthy relationship, with no one holding grudges against the other person.
If you know you’ve made a mistake, here are some tips to keep in mind when apologizing to your teens:
- Make sure you mean it. An inauthentic apology will make things worse. Give yourself time to reflect on your words and actions, and say sorry when you genuinely mean it.
- Watch your tone. Avoid using an angry, sarcastic, or defensive tone.
- Admit your mistakes. Admit what you’ve done wrong. Sometimes, your actions might not have been wrong, but your teens’ feelings were still hurt. If so, say you’re sorry that their feelings were hurt.
- Keep it short. Don’t defend yourself with a “but” after you say, “I’m sorry.” Avoid the temptation to justify your actions or lecture your teens about what they did wrong. Keep your apology short, and let your teens know you’re available to talk more if they’d like to.
You can also ask your teens for pointers on what you could have done better or how you can support them moving forward.
Tip #6: Set clear expectations and boundaries
When there’s no conflict, it’s a good idea to set some boundaries.
These rules and expectations help to guide future conflicts in a constructive way. They can also help to prevent both parties from crossing the line when things get heated.
Some examples of boundaries and rules you might decide to establish include:
- No name-calling, swearing, or using degrading language
- No yelling at the other person
- Listen to the other person without interrupting
- Focus on the issue at hand and avoid bringing up the past
- Either party can call for a time-out if he or she feels overwhelmed
The rules you set should apply to both you and your teen, as far as possible.
Find a good time to sit down with your teen to discuss and agree on these rules and boundaries.
Tip #7: Offer choices and compromises
Negotiation and communication are essential life skills that teens need to have to work well with peers and colleagues. It will also help them to build healthy relationships.
As parents, we can give our teenagers the opportunity to learn how to communicate and negotiate in a mature and respectful way.
When you don’t see eye to eye with your teens, keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t be dismissive. Saying things like, “My house, my rules,” or “Stop arguing with me” won’t help.
- Listen attentively to your teens’ point of view. Explain your perspective, then listen and try to understand where your teens are coming from.
- Come up with options. If both of you don’t agree, try to discuss different choices and solutions. Maybe your teen wants to go out on a weekday night and won’t be able to help with the chores. You can let your teen choose between swapping duties with a family member or helping out on an extra night the following week.
- Lower your expectations. Both parties can lower their expectations slightly to meet in the middle. For instance, you might allow your teens to go to a party if they agree that you’ll pick them up at 11 pm.
- Be clear about what’s not negotiable. At times, you’ll have to be firm. For instance, risky behaviors like doing drugs and speeding while driving are prohibited. These rules for teens can’t be negotiated.
- Clarify the final decision. To end the discussion, repeat exactly what you both have agreed on to prevent misunderstandings.
Remember that compromise isn’t a sign of weakness. It shows that you’re willing to hear your teens out and use your parental authority to guide, not control.
Tip #8: Don’t argue in the heat of the moment
There’s a lot of truth to the saying, “Think before you speak.”
If you often regret what you’ve said to your teens in the heat of the moment, try this the next time.
As soon as you realize you’re getting frustrated, take a deep breath and suggest taking a break.
Remind yourself that lashing out at your teenager won’t fix anything. In fact, it will almost certainly make the situation worse.
During the break, try to do something that helps you relax, like taking a walk or enjoying a cup of tea.
Don’t dwell on what made you mad. Instead, focus on how you can resolve the issue. Be realistic about what’s in your control and what isn’t.
Once you and your teen are ready, you can come together to resolve the conflict.
Tip #9: Focus on the bigger picture
“Because I said so” and “I pay for everything you own” are a couple of phrases that parents use to “win” arguments.
But this isn’t constructive. Trying to win arguments will strain your relationship with your teenagers.
Ultimately, you need to focus on the bigger picture.
What values do you want to impart to your teens? How can you meet in the middle? How can you show them that you still love them even though you’re arguing?
No matter how tough or indifferent your teenagers might seem, they still need you to be there for them. They need your support, love, and attention.
So don’t aim to win arguments.
The goal is to teach good values and develop a stronger relationship with your teens. Your words and actions should reflect this.
No family is perfect, and not every argument turns out the way you want it to.
Sometimes, you’ll be able to resolve issues quickly. At other times, you might get into a heated quarrel that leads to hurt feelings.
Despite this, every conflict is an opportunity for you and your teens to grow. Nothing will strengthen your relationship more than learning to work through problems that arise.
So give these 9 tips a try the next time you have an argument with your teens. You’ll be glad you did!
(Make sure to download your free e-book below.)