Parent-Teen Conflicts: Don’t Fight With Your Teen or Give in – Listen and Understand

By Barbara Gibson

If it feels like every conversation with your teen ends in a shouting match, take heart – you aren’t alone. Use these 16 tips to calm the chaos and tame angry tempers.

Conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship. For parents of teens, conflicts can seem not only inevitable but also everlasting. When you find that your relationship with your teen involves more shouting than sharing, it may be time to make a change.

Strategies for Calming Parent-Teen Conflict

1.   Accept that conflicts are normal and natural. You cannot always avoid conflicts, but you can always decide to manage conflicts with a positive attitude.

2.   Accept that your teen is an individual (separate and different from you) with his/her own perspectives, opinions, priorities, pressures and ideas.

3.   Avoid being pulled into an argument with your teen. Clearly state your expectation for future behavior (I want you to be in by 10) or your concerns about past behavior (I am concerned that you did not come in by 10); deliver the agreed upon consequence if appropriate and move on.

4.   Avoid interpreting disagreement as disrespect.

5   Accept that you and your teen will feel angry sometimes. That’s okay, anger is normal and healthy. Talk about ways to manage anger appropriately (taking a walk, listening to music, journaling). You should also talk about inappropriate expressions of anger, such as hitting, breaking or throwing things, shouting, cursing or name calling. When these things happen let your teen know you understand s/he is angry. When the teen is calm, give a reminder about constructive anger management and deliver a consequence, if necessary.

6.   Remain calm. How you handle conflict is a powerful example for your teen.

7.   Accept that you must listen with the intent to understand. No, you don’t have to agree – but understanding fosters compassion, which can help you find common ground, find a compromise, or build consensus. A common complaint among teens is that parents just don’t understand. The teen years can feel lonely, stressful and confusing; they need to know that parents understand even if they don’t agree.

8.   Come up with ground rules for conflict management when everything is calm. These are “fair fight” rules. Parents and teens should agree on and observe these rules (e.g. no shouting or interrupting, being honest, etc.) during every conflict. Parents AND teens should offer a sincere apology when these rules are not observed.

Read rest of tips for calming parent-teen conflict