Imagine feeling that you and your teen will be able to problem-solve together – for issues both large and small.
Arguments between a parent and a teen seem to come with the territory. In some ways, that may be true. Your teen is becoming more independent and will push limits in new ways.
However, a teen arguing, yelling, fighting, giving the silent treatment… those things don’t have to be a part of parenting a teenager.
There are a few common mistakes parents make that increase chances of negative interactions.
Here are some vital tips for the best ways to respond to your teen arguing with you. These tools will become your personal antidote to arguments.
The Parent-Teen Arguing Antidote
1. Talk when the brain is available.
Parents often make the mistake of trying to problem solve when their arguing teen is simply trying to express that they’re upset.
Don’t try to engage your teen’s critical thinking skills when they are in a heightened emotional state. You are much less likely to be heard.
Your other options include connecting non-verbally (like sitting quietly with your teen) or walking away until they’re ready to talk.
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2. Make constructive comments.
It’s easy to fall into a habit of making critical or passive aggressive comments in response to a teen arguing with you. Unfortunately, these things shut down communication with an arguing teenager.
Do you ever speak in extremes or “black and white” language, saying things like “You always do this” or “You never do that”? Saying these things put up a wall between you and the teen arguing with you.
Practice being in the mindset of the solution. Make suggestions about what you would like to see or what you are willing to do yourself to contribute to a more positive conversation (and stick with it).
For example, your teen arguing about rules that they feel are unfair can later be a collaborative conversation about how to set rules that can be agreed upon and followed. You can decide which rules are up for discussion and which are not. Taking your teen’s input into account (at a time when they are calm and constructive) will help prevent your teen arguing about rules and pushing back against your limits.
3. Point out the positive.
In addition to making constructive comments and suggestions, make positive observations. A teen arguing with a parent may feel the need to defend themselves against criticism. To prevent a negative interaction, give your teen consistent positive suggestions and feedback, expressing gratitude for what you already see working.
Here are a few examples:
“I appreciated that you listened to what I said rather than talking over me.”
“Thank you for being on time today.”
“It really helped me out that you were patient with your sister today.”
The key is this: No sarcasm. No guilt-tripping. Just honest, positive appreciation. These positive comments can lead to further constructive suggestions and encourage more positive behavior.
4. Exercise your right to not engage.
Your teen arguing with you doesn’t have to lead to you arguing with your teen. An argument literally cannot happen if you don’t participate in it. The behavior that you accept is the behavior that you encourage, and by engaging in an argument or responding reactively to your teen arguing with you, you are actually encouraging the arguing habit.
You may want to respond because you may think that you need to point out something that your teen is doing or saying that is troubling or unacceptable.
You’re allowed to feel what you feel, but you’re also responsible for choosing what you say. If you don’t have a constructive comment and you can’t seem to point out the positive, your conversation will likely be less that productive.
5. Take a break.
Respect your teen’s right to not engage as well. If your teen wants to take a break, give him or her some time. An arguing teen may feel pressure or stress surrounding a situation, or an extreme sense of urgency to sort it out.
Take some of the pressure off by suggesting a break – either thinking about it for a few moments, or talking about it later that day or the next day. Just because something is important, doesn’t mean that it’s urgent.
If the topic at hand is worth sorting out, you will eventually engage in a conversation about it. It is worth it to engage in a way that is respectful both to yourself and to your teen. Do your best to consistently speak to your teen the way that you want to be spoken to.
Make a habit of asking whether or not it is a good time for your teen to talk. When you ask, let them have the option to say no. If your teen continues to refuse to talk, pick a time (within the next 24-48 hours) and plan to talk together then. If they continue to refuse to address an important issue, ask for help from a friend or professional whom you both trust.
6. Practice repair
While it is important to take a break, don’t neglect to problem solve the issue at hand (especially if it comes up repeatedly).
Repair happens when you and your teen are in a neutral location. A neutral location is a place where neither one of you is feeling caught of guard or defensive. A non-neutral location is a place like your teen’s room (especially when you’re not invited in). When your teen feels like you’re invading their space, you’ll most likely be met with oppositional behavior.
An apology to your teen must be genuine and without strings attached (such as requiring an apology back).
You may be the most influential person in your teen’s life right now. Commit to choosing positive actions that set the stage for positive problem solving, no matter what. You’ve already made a great step by taking the time to read this post and watch this video.
Now, put it into action:
What will you do today to slow down and observe your argument habits?
Try at least one of the Parent-Teen Arguing Antidote tips today and begin to make it your own.
CLICK here to download this article as a .pdf – for free!
Please share this article and video so that more parents like you can live a life connected to their teens through healthy communication.
To learn more about how therapy can be helpful for a teen arguing with his or her parents, contact me for a free consultation.