Fight Fair with Your Teen

If you have a teen in the house then you are well aware of the possibility of conflict that looms around almost every corner.  With the ever increasing desire for independence from parents, life with teenagers can easily give way to some intense conflict.  Let’s take a closer look at eight simple rules for engaging in a “fair fight” with your teen that can help you avoid damaging your relationship with them.

  1.  Don’t use the word “you”!  When you find yourself in the middle of an argument, it’s always a wise idea to avoid using the word “you”.  A “you” statement is a way to place all the blame on the other person as well as quickly putting them on the defensive.   
  2. Don’t use Absolutes!  Absolutes are terms such as, “never”, “always”.  In an argument absolutes are usually accompanied by “you” statements…now that’s a recipe for disaster. 
  3. Stop the name calling; this just adds jet fuel to the fire!  Nothing is more belittling that name calling.
  4. Watch your volume level!  When you are standing right next to someone there is no need to yell…they can hear you.  They have already made the choice to either listen to you or not. Raising your voice will not make them hear you.  In my experience, yelling or raising the voice is an indication that we feel we are not winning in the argument, so we resort to yelling to try and win by being louder. 
  5. Watch your body language!  Here’s an interesting fact…approximately 90% of all communication is done non-verbally.  That tells us that we communicate more with our bodies than we do with our words.  Watch what your facial expressions, arm gestures, and body movements are saying to your teen.  Crossing your arms, pointing your finger or balling up your fist all communicate that you are closed off and don’t want to hear objectively what your teen is saying.  When people feel that you are shut off to them, more than likely they stop listening to you and start thinking about how they can counter and retaliate to what you are saying. 
  6. Don’t bring up the past!  The past is the past and should stay there.  If you are constantly bringing things up from the past then in reality you are more than likely the one with the problem.  Maybe you have not dealt with something from the past that needs to be dealt with.  In an argument deal with the situation at hand…not things from the past. 
  7. Don’t interrupt.  Let each person fully present their side.  Then let the other side present their case.  Taking this stance over just yelling will teach your teen how to have mutual respect for someone who disagrees with them and teach them how to have healthy conflict resolution skills. 
  8. Don’t assume that you are right!  You know what you do when you assume right?  Well I am not going to spell it out for you!  If you open up and are willing to listen you might just be able to hear where your teenager is coming from, and who knows they might just be right. 

I hope that as you continue in the journey of parenting with your teen, that these tips to engaging in healthy conflict can help your fight fair with your teen, keeping you from damaging your relationship with them, and helping them become who God has called them to be.