Parenting a teen certainly comes with its high and lows. While it’s exciting to watch your children grow and learn more about themselves, the growing pains can often involve disagreements and conflict. As you learn how to navigate through these difficult times, try keeping some of these tips in mind.
1. Stay Calm
The first thing to keep in mind when you’re dealing with conflict with your teenager is to stay as calm as possible. When your teen acts out, it’s tempting to have your own outburst. Instead, take a step back, allow yourself some space if you need it, breathe in a few deep breaths and begin your conflict resolution from a calm place. This will help to resolve conflict because it will allow your teen to feel that they can actually communicate with you. It will also help to keep your own thoughts and decisions clear, rather than letting you be ruled completely by your frustrations and emotions.
2. Consider Their Perspective
Everyone has their own perspective and interpretation of what’s taking place. Sometimes it can be hard, but try to consider what your teen’s perspective is. How are they perceiving the conflict? How are they perceiving your role in it? Their role? What might they feel that their unmet needs are? This line of thinking will help you address the conflict in a creative way or in an empathetic way. It might also help you work towards a solution that benefits both you and your teen.
3. Encourage Openness
Of course, it might be difficult to understand your teen’s perspective if you don’t know what they’re thinking. As a general rule – whether you and your teen are in a place of conflict or not – encourage openness with your teen as much as possible. Try to foster a relationship where you both listen to each other and share your joys and frustrations with “I feel” statements. The benefit of establishing this habit in general is that it will likely translate to your communication during conflicts. This will help you have a better idea of what your teen is thinking and feeling and vice-versa.
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4. Outline Expectations and Consequences
Sometimes conflict arises from a situation that needs to be addressed head on, with consequences attached to it. Whenever possible, outline your expectations with your teen before a situation comes up so that you can simply point to the previously agreed upon consequence if it does. Always be sure to make the “punishment fit the crime,” so to speak. In other words, don’t punish them excessively for something small or in a way that is completely unrelated. This will help your teen understand the reason behind the consequence, even if they aren’t pleased about it.
5. Allow for Growth
In the same way that it’s a good idea to have consequences for negative behavior, be sure to allow room for growth by encouraging positive behavior in your teen. For example, if they improve in school, listen well, are kind or give back to their community in some way, consider giving them more privileges. This positive reinforcement encourages your teen to work towards good behaviors, rather than constantly focusing on negative behaviors. In other words, if the only time you react is when your teen behaves negatively, they will feel like you’re constantly in a place of conflict. Instead, choose to notice their moments of growth to strengthen your relationship and boost their self-esteem.
6. Talk it Out
Being in conflict with your teen is stressful, so be sure to take care of yourself too during this tough time. Talk through the situation with close friends, family or your partner. Talking to others might help you get a fresh perspective on the conflict and new ideas. If the stress is taking a particularly difficult toll on you, you can also speak to a mental health professional or therapist about your struggles. Taking care of yourself will help you to manage conflict with your teen in a constructive way.
At the end of the day, just as your teen is growing, you are growing too as a parent. Be kind to yourself as you learn, make mistakes and try new methods in order to foster a better relationship between yourself and your children.
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