How To Stop Arguing With Your Teenager

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Besides telling your teenage daughter every single day that you love her (the importance of which I have written about here), refraining from arguing with her is another major step a parent can take that will do wonders for both teenage self-esteem as well as the parent-teen relationship. Not arguing includes refraining from raising your voice, cursing, and using any kind of insulting language. In fact, a recent study (that Dr. Joseph Mercola, MD has written an article on just last week) suggests that arguing, criticizing and using harsh verbal language is counterproductive and can make your child even more defiant. Not only that, it also increases feelings of depression that can result in its own set of unwanted behaviors.

The researchers concluded that these findings very much apply to “average” families as well, where the parents genuinely love and care for their children. What this means is that even if a parent is emotionally and physically supportive it does not give him or her permission to yell at their child “out of love.”  Yelling “out of love” is a fallacy.

The study researchers found,

“Even if you are supportive of your child, if you fly off the handle it’s still bad.

…Our findings offer insight into why some parents feel that no matter how loud they shout, their teenagers do not listen… Indeed, not only does harsh verbal discipline appear to be ineffective at addressing behavior problems in youth, it actually appears to increase such behaviors.”—Medical News Today, September 5, 2013

There are plenty of studies that have their flaws but this one makes intuitive sense. And even though I know that when we yell or scream at our children in frustration the only thing we accomplish is to further distance ourselves from them, I’ve still gotten myself into arguments with my teens over the years. Even when I really hadn’t wanted to, even when I said I would stop arguing with them. However, I noticed that educating myself on what to do instead to prevent an argument has actually made a real difference.

When parents first discover that their child has broken a rule or has done something unacceptable they often respond by voicing their frustration and by trying to control the situation and/or force a behavior change. This often ends up with an argument—which will only drive the family further apart on critical issues. I have learned that rather than raising our voices and trying to control or force things (which is often our response when we’re feeling frustrated) it’s much more effective to take some time out to calm down and to plan our response.

1. Take A Time Out

Are you calm enough to talk to your child? If you find that you are too upset with your child’s behavior to have a calm discussion, it’s better to take a “time out” until you get back in control. Take some deep breaths, go for a walk, go to a yoga class, or call a friend, a relative or a support partner. Do not attempt to talk with your child unless your feelings of anger and frustration have subsided.

2. Develop A Plan

Take some time to write down everything you want to discuss with your child. Having your points written down and organized will help to keep the conversation on the unwanted behavior and make sure that all your key points have been brought up. By developing a plan you will be much less likely to get off track or distracted. (Children, as we know, are masters of distraction.)

Plan also to have the conversation in a neutral place where you both will be comfortable and where you will not be interrupted. You may want to close the door and tape a “Do Not Disturb” note on the door.

3. Rely on Parental Influence Rather Than Control

Try to utilize all these suggestions. Although you may not have control over your child, when you state your points in a calm, clear way you are much more likely to influence her behavior in the future.

So what will you do when you discover your teenager has done something that gets your blood pressure rising? What will you do, for example, when the dean of the high school calls to tell you that your daughter is at the football game intoxicated and is now suspended from school for three days?

Of course it makes no sense to even discuss anything with her when she’s intoxicated. Rather, get her home safely and make sure she’s not in any danger due to her alcohol use. Then you would talk to her about what happened the next day, when she is sober and when you are calmer and have taken the time to think about the best course of action to take.

And just as you would wait until she is sober to have a useful discussion you must wait until you are calm and your thoughts organized to have an effective discussion as well.  Take the time to discuss the issues with your teenager, be strong and clear about what’s accepted and what’s not accepted (be clear about the rules), and then go through with consequences when the rules are broken.

In summary, do not argue with your teens. Arguing with your teenagers makes no sense. There’s absolutely no point in arguing with teenagers. Take the time to calm down and plan your discussion points instead. You may not be able to control your kids, but you sure can influence them.

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