As the parent of a teenager, it may be difficult to imagine a world where you and your child could actually get along. If you feel frustrated by the constant bickering and endless yelling that fills your household, you are not alone. While the teen years can be notoriously difficult, raising adolescents peacefully does not have to be impossible. With patience and compromise from both parties, you and your teen can learn how to stop arguing about everything.
Don’t expect perfection
As you and your teen actively work toward creating a healthier relationship and a more welcoming environment, do not expect perfection from either participant. Arguing is an inevitable part of life and often a necessary step in the conflict resolution process. It is unrealistic to expect that you and your teen will never disagree. It is much more realistic, however, to hope for arguments that are both less frequent and more civilized.
While your teenager may sometimes act like he or she is from another planet, you should approach the situation the same way you would if you were dealing with a spouse, coworker, or friend—be calm, be reasonable, be patient, and be prepared for bumps along the way.
Narrow your focus
If you and your teen truly do argue over just about anything, improving your relationship can seem like a daunting, ambiguous task. It is impossible to quickly go from “fighting hourly” to “getting along constantly,” and you will only disappoint yourself by trying. Step back and evaluate your relationship with your teen, focusing on recurrent and specific problem areas.
Narrow your scope and choose a few select issues to work on. It is helpful to address topics that can have definite, immediate solutions—conversations discussing curfew and allowance money will likely be much more straightforward than singular conversations hoping to tackle issues involving grades, dating, and substance abuse. Start with the little things and work your way toward bigger problems.
While it may feel unnatural to treat conversations with your teen like a business meeting, a more formal approach might be worth trying the first few times. Plan ahead of time what you want to discuss with your teen, bringing notes and visuals if needed. Focus on the key points you feel are important and be prepared to address possible rebuttals. When discussing major issues with your teen, see if he or she is willing to set aside a specific time to talk with you. Know ahead of time when and where you will have the conversation and involve other people as appropriate.
Try to establish ground rules for your discussion, such as no yelling, swearing, or storming out of the room. If you two are prone to bicker for hours on end, set a time limit and agree to cool down and come back to the conversation at a later time. Being overly angry reduces your ability to listen and think critically—both of which are necessary if you hope to make any progress with your teen.
Pick your battles and remain in control
No matter how difficult or unreasonable your teen may be acting, remember that it always takes two to argue. Don’t let your pride or your need to be “right” become a stumbling block that prevents you from communicating healthily with your teen. Some issues, like those involving safety or future success, are more important than others—and you always have the opportunity to be the bigger person and to leave less significant battles un-fought.
Remember that your teen is also your child; someone who existed before these difficult years and someone who will exist and evolve after. The difficult teenage phase does not last forever—and with patience and love–it can be both endured and enjoyed.