HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

How to Stop Arguments With Your Defiant Teenager

Most parents hate having arguments with their defiant teenagers. Arguing is exhausting and time-consuming, especially after a hectic day at work. Are you wondering how to stop it? Follow these tips, and they will help you:

1. The first thing to do is to listen to EVERYTHING your teen has to say. Don’t interrupt, even if she is going on and on. Let her finish, and while she is speaking, make eye contact and let her know you hear her. It’s amazing that even after a long, drawn-out argument, neither person feels really heard, so listen intently. This is the first step to ending arguments before they grow into something unmanageable.

2. As often as possible, try to avoid topics about which you know your teen is passionate about. If you know which buttons to push to get her started, don't push them.

3. Empathize with your teen while she is venting. Say something like, “I’m sorry that things are this way, but hopefully we can settle it once we’ve both calmed down.” Being empathic doesn’t mean you’re taking the blame for the argument, it simply means you’re acknowledging the problem.

4. Identify the reason(s) for the argument. When you know what you’re arguing about, you can begin to work on fixing the problem.

5. Only address the “message” that your teen communicated to you. Take the time to address “what was said” rather than addressing “your reaction to it” or your own personal feelings about it.  Not doing so is how arguments spiral out of control – parent and child react to their own feelings about what the other person has said. Instead, respond only to the message that was communicated. This will diffuse the argument, and your teen will know that she was heard and understood.

6. Save your feelings for later. Take a moment to think about if what you are about to say is something that you should bring up now, or if it can wait until later. After you address what your teen has said, you may decide that you do indeed need to address how her message made you feel or some other feelings you have.  Sometimes a teen’s delivery may have been poor, and you may feel attacked.  Other times, there is something else going on and you also want to be heard and understood. If this is the case, wait until your teen feels understood. You’ll know you’re ready to address “your” feelings when the topic at hand feels diffused and it seems like the conversation could end.

7. Try to discern your teen’s “message” or what she is feeling rather than giving your attention to the reactions and feelings that arise WITHIN YOU as she speaks. This takes practice and patience, but it is really key to understanding the message that is being communicated.  When we, as parents, get caught up in what we “feel” about what our defiant teens are saying, we stop really hearing what they are saying. We take it too personally. This can be a real challenge when how your teen communicates is offending you.  But try to focus on the message rather than on the delivery.  If the delivery angered you, choose to address that later.

8. Wait before you respond. When your teen finishes, don’t respond right away.  Take time to think of what you would like to say.  It’s okay to be silent and thoughtful for a moment. Clear out all those reactions that are based on your own feelings before you respond.

9. Walk away from the situation. Many times, parent and child argue because they get entangled with their anger or the heat of the moment. Walking away to diffuse the situation allows you both to cool off.

10. Try to end on a positive note. Sometimes, not everything can be resolved, and that’s okay. Things can take time.  But as long as both you and your teen feel understood, progress can be made in the days to come.  Try to explain what you’ve understood and what you’ll do different in the future.

Regardless of the real issue, the 10-step mediation process above gives you some ideas on how to handle conflict and start chipping away at the problem. If you try this technique in good faith and it doesn't take the arguing down a notch or two, it's probably time for you and your teen to seek professional counseling.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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