How to Fight Fairly with Your Teen
Teenagers have strong opinions, strong emotions and strong desires they want to apply. This often comes in the form of explosive arguments which brings sadness, anger and hurt to both sides of the fight. Instead of resigning yourself to living with an emotional teenage time bomb, equip yourself with these useful tricks to handles these teenage struggles.
Use nonverbal cues wisely. Give your teen all of your attention. Put down the cell phone. Turn off the television. Pull off the road if necessary. Turn your body to face the teenager and hold eye contact. Keep your expression neutral as you listen.
Focus on their words. Listen to the teen’s entire side of the story. No matter how hurtful, no matter how ridiculous, no matter how trivial, listen. Let them finish their thoughts. The hardest part of communicating with a teenager is getting them to talk. If they choose to open up, do not cut them off or the opportunity to discuss the issue at hand may never arise again.
Affirm them. Once your teenager is done talking, repeat back the points you heard them make. Have them agree with you. The more times they nod their head or say yes, the better. This neutralizes the tense atmosphere and lets the teen know you understand and you care.
Respect them. Keep your rebuttal short. Do not list every reason in your opposition, but only the most important ones. Explain your side with the reasoning behind it. Do not use any name-calling terms towards your teenager, their friends or their outside influencers. Avoid trigger words like always and never.
Take a break if necessary. Often when our emotions are heated, it is very easy to say things we do not mean and cannot take back. It’s okay to say, “We will discuss this after dinner” or “we will discuss this when I get home from work.” Try to set an exact time for when the discussion will resume and try to set it quickly to resolve the conflict as soon as possible.
Use a conflict journal. Sometimes the best way to communicate is through writing. Express your thoughts on the conflict in the pages of a notebook. Write in letter form and ask your teen to write a letter back in the same notebook. Writing out the feelings and reasoning in a letter form is both therapeutic and compassionate. A conflict journal is also a great way to respect your teenager’s privacy if they don’t feel comfortable discussing the issue in front of other family members.