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How to STOP Arguing With Your Teenager

Aug 8, 2008
Lately I received many inquiries from parents seeking advice on how to avoid getting into a heated argument with their teens. They worry about their teen's lack of responsibility, want their teen to do better in school, stop drinking or staying out late, or hang with a "bad" crowd.

Responsible parents become increasingly frustrated with watching their teen waist away time or jeopardizing their future instead of "growing up". Every attempt to teach their teen more responsibility ends up in a heated argument. Teens counter well-meant advice with "I am quite capable of running my life!" and "Stop telling me what to do, I'm not a little kid anymore."

Your teen probably is quite capable of dealing with daily routines and running his or her life - as far as they know it. Because of their lack of experience, they are incapable of realizing the dangerousness of their behavior or how their decisions may affect their future life.

However, even though we know that teens really don't know what life is all about, we should never hold this against them. Your teen will get defensive, and you will find yourselves not only opponents, but also engaged in a struggle for power.

So how are parents able to provide guidance and direction?

1. Parents are in charge. You can end any conversation at any time and continue as soon as you both calmed down. If your teen disrespects your decision and continues to argue, you could punish him or her by taking away privileges. They need to realize that, no matter how adult they might feel, you are the parent!

2. Control your emotions. What your teen is saying might make absolutely no sense, lack any logic, or even be impossible. Don't let your emotions take over! Count to ten, if necessary. You don't want your teen to get defensive, so stay calm, discuss facts, and focus on guiding your teen's thinking.

3. Have realistic expectations - don't expect more than what a regular, smart teenager is capable of. Kids don't pay any attention to how their parents deal with day-to-day life. If we expect our teens to act logical and smart, based on our experience, we will be disappointed.

4. Listen and ask questions. Why does he think that way? How does he feel about the situation? What did he base his decision on? Where is her opinion coming from? Friends? Magazines? Movies? Ask her to help you understand her point of view, and allow her to explain herself and her actions.

5. Set reasonable goals and clearly state consequences. Your teen needs to understand that by agreeing on a particular goal, he simultaneously takes over the responsibility to reach it. Teach your teen that there are consequences for inadequate behavior, in life as well as in your home. At the same time, recognize and praise your teen for every accomplishment or positive behavior, no matter how small.

As parents get used to listening and focusing on facts, they no longer focus on their teen's inadequacy, but begin to understand their way of thinking.

Once your teen feels that you are paying attention to what he or she is saying, whether you are validating it or not, they will no longer feel the need to get loud in order to get their point across. In turn, they too will learn to stick with the facts and discuss them peacefully instead of arguing.
About the Author
Christina Botto is the author of Help Me With My Teenager! A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents that Works and Fitting The Pieces. To better understand and relate to your teen visit her web site at Parenting A Teenager.
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