Arguing with your teenager a lot? Here’s how to talk to your teenager and stop the home fights
My child wants a “popular app or game” and I said No. He keeps arguing back and forth. It has upset our home peace. I think I am slowly going crazy. Please advise.
This is the most common question that I get in my inbox. Moms ask me either this exact same question or with a little variation, but the theme is always the same: How can I not give in to my teen and still make him not hate me.
I am a mother to a teenager now, but the past 15 years, I’ve talked to a lot of families on such issues. Here is what I want you to know.
Your teen is not getting out of hand or “lost” as you think he/she may be. You’re not raising a bad child.
Before you ask: How to stop arguing with your teen…
Your son or daughter demanding something off limits is absolutely normal. It is not a guarantee of that they will grow up to be bad. I want you to remember this first and foremost.
RECOMMENDED READING: Advice on Raising Muslim Teens
We all grow up with troubling teen years. I am sure you can relate a story of something you did that wasn’t approved by your parents and here you are… you still turned out fine.
Your child is the same. They are teenagers. And teens stretch or test their boundaries. That is actually healthy.
Before you talk, remember to be the adult:
- Make an informed decision. Find out about the app. Ask them. Research it. So that you have your facts straight.
- Explain the family rules. Always talk about family rules.
- Always remember that this is the not a competition on who is right and who can be proven wrong.
- Remind yourself that the loudest person won’t necessarily win.
- Focus on finding a solution.
How to have difficult conversations with your teenager
Some discussions may be very difficult. Some, not so much… but most often we forget that we have to treat them all as equally important.
The golden rule when talking to a child – irrespective of whether they are small or big – is that our children should always be reminded that their parents are their well wishers. This can only happen when you are kind and considerate.
Treat your child like they are perfect, but at the moment they are in need guidance.
Don’t think you have a bad child. Don’t think you are bringing up a bad child. What you fear, is what they fear they will become. It is very scary to not be “good-enough” for your parents. I am sure you can think back to your own childhood and remember how that felt!
Forcing a child into submission doesn’t work.
Kindness does not equal leniency. A kind parent is not necessarily a permissible parent. Gentleness is never wasted. I believe in encouragement rather than forcing change.
Whether your child is a toddler or a teen, when they argue or stand their ground on matters, you should give them every opportunity to explain themselves rather than forcing them into obedience.
How to say no to your teenager
Let’s take an example of how to handle your child when they are asking for an app or a game that you don’t approve of. (This is one question that I get from parents of both teenage boys and girls!)
So now, how you can handle the situation. Here are the steps:
- You answered to your child that they can’t have that game or app, that’s your decision. You are the adult. The parent. You have every right to say no to your child. There is a reason you said no and remember you are the authority in their life. The caretaker. Their well wisher. You are doing this to protect your child. You have a reason. Tell your child the reason why you are denying them.
- Next, don’t back down. One of the biggest mistakes that parents make is that they give in under pressure. Don’t feel guilty of saying No to your teen. You don’t have to feel sorry about saying no. Don’t parent out of guilt.
- The reason why you feel guilty is because, as their parents, we feel that we should always keep our children happy. You have denied your child pleasure. Of course, as their parents, we want our children to be happy but sometimes we have to delay or deny a pleasure for their own good. We want our children to be happy, proud, confident and look good in front of their peers and friends, but our first duty is to ensure they are protected. Tell your child this. Reassure them that you love them.
- Stand your ground but be kind. It is absolutely possible to say kind things even when we are denying someone their pleasure. Be empathetic. Tell them you understand how they are feeling but you have to say no and this is the reason. Remember, you can be right and still say No kindly. It doesn’t have to be a whole big fight. As a teenager, it is expected for them to get angry. Their brains are still developing and at this moment their amygdala is not that developed to take a No quietly. Let them fume off. Don’t keep arguing.
- Children beyond the age of 6 can very well understand a No if you give a reason. In fact they want a reason. They have a “right” to a reason so give it to them. Always remember that our children are watching us learning how to talk, interact and disagree with people. If you are angry, rash, mean and rude, that’s what they learn. You may notice that many children when they say No they act defensive either in their words or their body language. Look at whether you are doing the same. Teenagers may be taller and physically bigger but they are still “in training” adults. How you react to them matters. How you handle the situation matters too. Your child is watching you and learn how to debate, convince and win an argument. What will you teach them? What kind of a lesson do you want them to take away from you?
- Lean on the side of empathy always. I notice this whenever I counsel a child. When we start with “I understand…” or “I know how it feels when…” they relax those shoulders almost instantly. This is the reason children prefer to go to their friends or cousins or an aunt with their problem rather than their parents. They know that someone closer in age will understand them better. Lean on the side of empathy. Relate a similar story of how you went through something similar if you can. Or share a story of someone else’s story !
- Go back and remind them what it is that made you say no. Tell them what you don’t agree with. What are your family rules? Your teenager is not a little child that you can just distract. They are quite intelligent. You cannot sweep their feelings under the rug without offending them and breaking your relationship. So, its very important that you acknowledge their feelings, empathize and then give a reason.
- Give them an opportunity to put across their point. Don’t feel defeated or disrespected if you find during the discussion that they may be right. The old parenting methods that we grew up with don’t work with our kids anymore. Our kids are smarter, they have access to more information and they are more capable than children 20 years ago. Treat them with respect.
That’s the exact steps to follow when you want to talk to your teenager and not argue. The main point is this: Our children are growing up now. You can discuss things with them. There is no need to debate.
Let’s recap: How to talk to your teenager without arguing
If you have a child who is revolting against your decision or if there is conflict in your home with your teen,
- Remind yourself that you have a good child.
- Handle the problem like a paren (with love!)
- Don’t give in to guilt.
- Be kind. Treat them like you would treat your guests.
- Be empathetic.
- Explain your reason with respect
- Go over the family rules.
- Give them every opportunity to explain their reasoning.
A resource that is a must have in every home is the Family Rules Chart. Want to know what are the 7 rules every Muslim Family needs in their home? Learn more here!
Image credit: Photo by Max Fischer from Pexels