By Laura Walls
Teenagers have a very special way of getting under parents’ skin. Unlike any other time in their lives, teenagers are developing a need to find their own way. This often involves arguing, arguing and more arguing. That same child who would listen to a rule you have had in your house since birth can now find several hundred reasons why that is the dumbest rule in all of existence.
One thing parents always seem to have a hard time with is stopping the arguing. Remember: You don’t have to fight back. Once a rule is explained and a consequence given, there is absolutely no reason to fight with them!
Give the explanation one time and then don’t change it. For example, your rule could be that the cellphone must stay out of the youth’s bedroom. The explanation might be: “You have to leave your phone here with me now because you are tempted to use it at night and stay up too late.“
There. You explained it.
Now, what will follow: questions.
“I told you I wouldn’t stay up too late, you don’t trust me?”
“This isn’t fair, why do I have to do that when all my friends get to keep theirs?”
Answer one question and that is how you will spend your whole night. In the end, both you and your child will accomplish nothing and both of you will feel dejected. Here are some typical argumentative responses I have heard parents give a hundred times:
“Because I said so.”
“Because you have school tomorrow, and it will be hard to wake you up.”
“I do trust you but you have shown me you will stay on it way too late.”
“I’m not your friend’s parent. My rules are different.”
You don’t have to fight back.
- Be a broken record. One technique that can work really well is repeating the same phrase. Tell your child, “I have already explained why and that is the rule.” Some teenagers are quite stubborn and will continue to try to fight for some time but if you are consistent, they will learn that they will never get another response, and eventually, stop asking questions.
- Calming thoughts. It is human nature to want to argue. People of all ages know exactly how to bait others into arguing, but no one does it better than teenagers. Remind yourself that arguing in most situations will get you nowhere. And remind yourself again and again. Tell yourself, “Stay calm. Don’t engage.”
- Be consistent. The most damaging error (though it can be fixed) is being inconsistent. If you give in too many times, teenagers learn that there is hope. Many teenagers have told me directly, “If I am annoying enough, my parent will give in.” While this means it will be tough to break, you have to be even more stubborn than your child. Try not to think of enforcing rules as an exhausting task, and an unavoidable confrontation. Try instead to think of it as a teaching opportunity. Some parents even find it helpful to think of staying calm and consistent as a friendly competition they are determined to win.
- Stay positive. Of course, all parents make mistakes and one common issue that many parents have is beating themselves up. Once a parent begins to feel that they have failed, often that is when a child’s behavior begins to worsen. Keep positive and notice the amazing job you are already doing with your child and keep moving forward.
If any of the above doesn’t seem to work for you or for your child, then it may be time to seek additional help!