Parenting Your Teen and Resolving Conflict

Instead of seeing conflict with your teen as a problem see it is an opportunity to improve and move family relationships forward by helping family members come to understand each other better.

Research has suggested that one of the reasons for some disagreements is that parents and teenagers define the problem differently.  For example parents believe that dress should conform to convention while teenagers see dress as a way of demonstrating their personal freedom; for teenagers dress is a reflection of their autonomy and identity.

This body of research argues that teenagers and parents clash because they define the issues of contention very differently.  Parents view many issues as a matter of right or wrong, not in a moral sense but as matters of custom or convention.  In contrast, adolescents are likely to define the same issue as a matter of choice. Take a mother who disapproves of her daughter’s outfit might say ‘you shouldn’t dress that way – you’re inviting trouble’, her daughter responds ‘I dress this way because I want to, everyone goes out like this nowadays’. 

Stage of Adolescence

There are 3 Stages of Adolescence and the needs of your child will differ as they move through the stages of adolescence.

  1. Early Adolescence – Lasting from about age 10-14 years. A time when your teen is trying to assert their independence
  2. Late Adolescence – Lasting from about 15-18 years. Dealing with potentially risky behaviour
  3. Emerging Adulthood – Lasting from18-25 years. Learning how to cope with life and problem solve

 Communication and “I” Statements 

How we communicate with our child can have a huge impact on our relationship with our child. Remember what we say only accounts for 7% of the message, how we say it through both our tone of voice (38%) and body language accounts for a whopping 93%. The onus is on us the parents to make sure the child hears the message as it was intended so no more blame game.

‘I’ statements can be used in a positive way to praise the teenager when they have done something well, e.g. “When you get up for school every day, I feel proud because you are being responsible and organised.”

Think of an example your child makes a snack and does not clean up.What would your usual response be? If you were using and an ‘I’ statement it would go something like this.

“I” Statement

  • When you…          Don’t tidy the kitchen after you’re finished
  • I feel…          Angry, annoyed, upset
  • ..          I left it tidy for you to use
  • I would like… You to help me please by tidying up after you use the kitchen 

Here are some Top Tips for Parents 

  • Learn to listen – this means giving your full attention and not just half listening while you are making the dinner or checking your email. It’s a question of quality not quantity, 10 minutes full engaged and actively listening to what your teen has to say can be better than 2 hours in the same room but not fully listening
  • Be ready to respond – teenagers don’t always choose the most convenient moment, but you may not get a second chance so when they are ready to talk you must be ready too. By taking the time to sit with your child when they are ready says a lot to them about how important they are to you and not on the bottom of your to do list
  • Ask for their advice or opinion – show that you listen to and respect what they have to say, and find their ideas interesting, even if you don’t agree.
  • Keep an open mind – hear your teenager out, and don’t pre-judge what you think they he/she will say. Be open to learning new insights about the life of your teenager.
  • Don’t feel that you must always try to protect them – by not talking about a family crisis or a difficult situation. Talk to them in an age appropriate way and they will feel included and an important part of the family.
  • Talk about feelings as well as facts – your own feelings as well as theirs. If you reveal who you really are, they will trust you and let you see who they are. Its ok to be angry, happy and sad just like them, remember children learn from they see not what they hear so they will deal with life the same way you do. If you don’t express your emotions neither will they.

If you want a different relationship with your children remember Einstein’s definition of insanity “The definition of insanity is repeating the same behaviours and expecting a different outcome”. The challenge is do something different to change your relationship with your child and you might be surprised at the result.

Provided by Siobhán Boucher, Odyssey Parenting Coordinator (Dublin) Mob: +353-86-8243267