Stress and Taking Charge: Managing Conflict With Teens
Rick and Jan are having a hard time with 15-year-old Brandon. He has a bad temper and arguments with him are really difficult. It doesn't seem to matter how hard they try, they can’t get him to calm down and be reasonable. They love Brandon but don't know how they can get through the next few years of conflict with him.
Conflict between parents and teens is normal. As teens become more independent, question their parents’ rules, and spend more time with peers, many families have disagreements. However, the conflict in some families with teens is severe. Instead of waiting until the problems are really big, decide to start now on finding ways to manage disagreements with your teen. The effort you put into learning ways of lowering levels of conflict will pay off in a happier, more peaceful family.
"Dad: Time for homework, Alex. Alex: Dad, I'm in the middle of a show. Dad: You know you have to get it done. Alex: I'll do it later. Dad: You'll be too tired later. Alex: No I won't. I'll get it done. Dad: That's what you said last night ..."
It's hard to win when you start arguing with a teen. He or she can probably think of an answer for everything you say. Worst of all, arguing can lead to serious fights and family conflict. Instead:
- Let teens know you heard their point. (Dad: I heard you. Anything else?)
- Use the words “regardless” or “nevertheless. (Dad: “Nevertheless, it’s time for homework.”)
- Don’t give in. If you give in after your child argues with you, you are teaching him or her to argue next time!
- Stay clear of a power struggle. Don’t try to convince your teen that you are right.
- Say, "I know you don't like it, but the answer is ‘no.’”
- Say, "I'm not going to argue" and walk away.
Going From Bad to Worse
Mom: "Please turn down the stereo, Jenny." Jenny ignores her. Mom (yelling): “Turn down that stereo this minute or else. Jenny: “Oh leave me alone!” Mom: “You’re so selfish! If you don’t turn it down this minute, I’ll rip the cord out.” Jenny: “You old hag! I hate you!”
When parents fight with kids, behavior goes from bad to worse. Tempers rise and threats, swearing, and physical fights can happen. Parents and teens both feel angry and hurt. Worst of all, each fight damages good feelings and makes the next fight more likely. If the parent wins, the teen will find a way to win next time. Instead:
- Do not use negative labels (e.g., selfish, lazy, irresponsible).
- Decide ahead what the rule is. (No loud stereo.)
- Speak in a quiet, low-pitched voice.
- Stop the behavior before things get worse. (After the first warning, Mom should turn down the stereo herself.)
- Leave the room when tempers rise.
- Calmly remove a privilege. (Mom could quietly unplug the stereo or take it out of the room if her request is ignored.)
Using a Point System
Many parents find that their teens try harder to get along when they earn points for good behavior. By spending only a few minutes a day, parents and teens can record points so that teens earn privileges and rewards. For many difficult teens, using points for good behavior works better than consequences or punishment for bad behavior. A point system helps most families gradually learn to get along better.
Reprinted with the permission of the Iowa State University Extension. © 2008 Iowa State University Extension.
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