How to Fight Better with Your Teenager​

Lately I have been thinking about the importance of how we, as adults, show up in teenagers’ lives and how much of an impact that has on how they view themselves and their relationships with others. 


I believe it is our responsibility, as much as possible, to have integrity and model the behavior we wish to see in them. And even more important, to own up to our mistakes when we make them. 


In light of these musings, I was glad to see this article from the New York Times come through my news feed this week, which tackles the issue of arguing with teens and how to navigate those arguments more skillfully. 


If you have a teen in your house, I recommend you read it. The core message of the article is this:


“...constructive conflict between parent and teenager hinges on the adolescent’s readiness to see beyond his or her own perspective. In other words, good fights happen when teenagers consider arguments from both sides, and bad fights happen when they don’t.”


Luckily, as teens, their ability to see both sides is starting to come online and become more honed. And this is our opportunity, as adults, to help them do this as much as possible and to model this for them when we can. That way, they will learn good techniques for communication and eventually be able to use them.


For example, let’s say your teen would rather hang out with a friend than write an essay that is due in a few days. This situation could very likely lead to an argument.


You could say something like, “Yes, I understand that you want to spend more time with friends today and I hear how important that is to you. I also know you need to get this essay done. Let’s find a compromise.”


Here, you show that you have heard their perspective and you are telling them what you heard them say. Then see if you can find a compromise. This may not resolve the conflict right away, but you are modeling for them how they can navigate a conflict, and that will go a long way in building their communication and conflict-resolution skills. 


Of course, there will be times when you do not wish to negotiate or hear their perspective because their safety is involved. But in many cases, this can help smooth the way for better communication.