SELF HELP RESOURCE - Parenting / Teens and Youth

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As a parent, it may not be easy for you all the time to get through to your teenager. Your teen may also feel the same.

Why parents and teenagers argue

There will be times when these roles clash, such as when teenagers want to do things that parents think they are not ready for yet. This often occurs because teenagers and their parents have different views on when a person should be allowed to do things by themselves - like going shopping alone, choosing what to wear and eat, what time to come home, and what subjects to study. While it can be tiring and uncomfortable, some conflict between parents and teenagers is actually good.

On the other hand, when conflict is intense, very frequent, or involves physical or verbal violence, relationships between parents and teenagers can become strained.


What do parents and teenagers fight about?

Researchers have found that most disputes between parents and teenagers are typically about everyday issues, such as:

  • Fighting with siblings
  • Cleaning up their rooms
  • Possessions 
  • Privacy/their own space 
  • Time management 
  • Personal grooming such as clothes, hairstyle etc. 
  • Academic performance / doing homework 
  • Sleep timing(sleeping late and getting up late)
  • Time to return home 
  • Music/parties with friends 
  • Choice of friends and responsibilities 
  • Phone calls (time spent on talking on phone /chatting online)                                                 

Issues that tend to generate more heat, but occur less frequently, includes:

  •  Talking back to parents
  •  Lying 
  •  Getting poor results at school
  •  Getting in trouble at school.

Researchers also found that it was rare for either parents or teenagers to raise issues such as alcohol, dating, sex, smoking and politics. However, when these were the topics of discussion, they were more likely to involve angry exchanges between the two.

Strategies for dealing with Parent - Child Conflict

Many times a disagreement between parents and their teenaged child can get out of control. There can be yelling, screaming, storming out of the room and slamming of doors. Parents are shocked and appalled "Where is your common decency?", "How about respecting your parents?" and the ultimate "When I was your age..."

Whether parent-teen disagreements result in animosity or a deepened relationship will depend on how these disagreements are handled or mishandled. When you find that your relationship with your teen involves more shouting than sharing, it may be time to make a change.

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

2. Remain calm. How you handle conflict is a powerful example for your teen. You are not just resolving a conflict but also teaching your child conflict resolution skills.

3. Accept that you must listen with the intent to understand. You don't have to agree - but understanding fosters compassion, which can help you 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.


4. Make sure the real message is getting through. Sure, you're frustrated that you saw your teen being driven around by his 17 year old friend, but you're probably also worried about your teen's safety. Let your teen hear it in your words so s/he understands you're motivated by love and concern.


5. Come up with ground rules for conflict management. These are "fair fighting" 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.


6. Avoid criticism, offer compliments and encouragement at least four times as much as you offer criticism. Criticize your teen's behavior but not your teen. There is world of a difference in saying "What you did was irresponsible" and "You are irresponsible".


7. Pay attention to language, Express pleasure in the teen's willingness to abide by rules, praise positive behavior demonstrated by child. Use ‘We' words rather than ‘You' or ‘I' words; instead of saying " You did this wrong" substituting "We need to work on this" will let the child know that the parent is not looking for opportunity to boss around but is willing to be involved on the solution.


8. A parent who often loses control of his temper, uses abusive or negative language, or gets physically violent needs to first work on these problems if they want an effective resolution of issues with their teens.


9. Respect the teenager's thoughts, feelings, needs and desires. Showing them respect teaches them to respect themselves and in turn respect others. Do not interpret disagreement as disrespect.


10. Engage your teen in conversations that don't always involve correcting behavior. Laugh, hang out together, listen to their music, share a good joke, story or positive experience together.


11. Sometimes conflict can become so severe it leads to verbal or physical violence between parents and children. If you are in this situation, you and your teenager may need professional help to break out of the violence cycle. Be willing to seek help if the problem continues or worsens.

Latest Comments

SimratSinsinwar on 02 Jun 2020, 12:05 PM

Helpful points for conflict management. really emphasizes respectful treatment on both the parent's end and the teen's end as well. Setting ground rules and normalising conflict are also key, in order to prepare for such situations!

cameo18 on 24 Jun 2015, 10:01 AM

All the issues mentioned here are accurate. I think all parents must stick this next to their beds and read it everyday.

crispymike1 on 07 Sep 2014, 12:28 PM

Some of the issues written here are indeed right. Sleep timings, fighting with siblings, phone chatting, Academic performance and room cleaning Cant these be ever resolved?