You may be blinking and wondering how it happened that suddenly your happy home has become a verbal battle ground. Gone are the days of quiet acquiescence. It seems they’ve been replaced with debates, arguments and angry words.
You ask yourself, “Did I sign up for this?” You really don’t want to get into it—yet again. So you take every possible opportunity to turn your back and ignore her messy room. Or you pretend you don’t notice that he came home an hour past his curfew.
But it’s actually a benefit to your teens when you confront the issues with them— if you do it calmly and respectfully. It can strengthen your relationship with your kids and create a closer, more trusting bond. Why? Because they learn that you’re fair, you’re not capricious or frivolous and you do, indeed, have their best interests at heart.
Conflict is a part of life, and kids need to learn the skills to think through situations, stand up for what they want and handle their emotions. Learning how to fight fairly gives them confidence that they can take care of themselves when they leave home and you’re not around to help them out.
Here are some questions I’ve been asked about fighting with your teen:
1. Which fights are worth having and which ones should you walk away from?
Have only the ones where the outcome really matters to the future of your teen. Diffuse the rest and let them go. Remember that your discipline is all about what’s best for your child in the long run. So walk away from the issues that are more about what you would like rather than what is best for him.
2. How do you make your case without wounding each other?
No matter how upset you are, treat your teen with respect and be sensitive to her feelings. People don’t always remember the things that were said in an argument, but they do remember how they felt. You can be firm without jabbing your teen’s soul, without ridiculing or putting her down and without judging or criticizing.
3. How do you diffuse a time-bomb fight?
Sit down with your teen and talk before the time-bomb explodes. Most likely, you’re getting some signals of the impending bomb, so talk with her about them. Her feelings are the most important thing, so tell her that you care and that you want to hear them. Try to see the situation from her perspective—from inside her skin. And try to find a win-win solution.
4. How do you control a fight and end it?
Simply call a halt. Explain that you’ve both shared your thoughts and feelings, and that there’s no new or helpful information coming out. Let your teen know that you’ve really heard his ideas and that you appreciate hearing how he feels. Tell him you both need some time to think and let things settle. If the two of you need to come back to it, you will set aside time to talk again.