If there’s a teen in your home, odds are overwhelming that there have been parent-teen disagreements, perhaps even hot and heavy fights. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Parents and their teens disagreeing is a normal part of the developmental process. Young children easily accept the black and white rules we create for them (“No snacks just before dinner!”). But as our kids grow up they begin to learn that not everything is an absolute and that there are often shades of gray or alternatives. The result is that they will increasingly question and test us. It may be frustrating for parents, and often the fuel for parent-teen arguments, but it’s actually a healthy, normal part of becoming more mature.
While only time will make that questioning and testing disappear (and even adulthood may not stop it), there are ways you can keep the disagreements from getting out of hand now.
A starting point is simply accepting that as your child grows he or she will instinctively question rules and decisions, and often want to debate you. When you can accept that this is just naturally going to take place as your maturing child seeks more independence, it can be easier to not let such occurrences make you angry and frustrated. Instead, try to develop techniques to avoid the fights.
One key is taking a non-aggressive attitude in disagreements. If your immediate response to your teen questioning your judgment is one of anger and zero compromise, you can probably expect the same back in response. Instead, stay calm, use a rational tone of voice and make it clear you’re willing to listen and discuss. Setting that example helps your child understand that you expect the same sort of response from him or her.
You’ll want to avoid words and accusations that put your child on an angry defensive. You’ll want to control your anger, and instead consider options and compromises that both of you can live with. When you disagree with something the teen has done or wants to do, make it very clear your disapproving of the behavior itself, not your child.
Questioning and disagreeing is a regular factor in growing up and learning to be more self-sufficient. When disagreements occur, understand why, stay calm and non-combative and you’ll avoid major fights that end in hurt feelings and distrust of each other.
This article is provided by the American Counseling Association. Visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.