Teenagers can be terrors, and battles are bound to break out. But not every argument has to be a free-for-all fight. It may seem fitting to make sure your little one knows who's boss in your home, but it's important to remember that your kids are still growing, and how you handle arguments with them will teach them how to handle arguments with others. You are a model for your son's behavior, and you're teaching your daughter what to expect from the world. So when frustrations rise and tensions boil over, remember this important advice about fights:
1. Words hurt, and cannot be taken back
You can't un-ring a bell; and you can't take back hurtful words you say to your child. You may instantly forget what is spewed in a fray, but the worse it was, the longer your child will remember. No matter how bad the conflict seems, your son or daughter needs to know you'll still be there for him or her once the battle is over and the smoke has cleared. That bond and trust can easily be broken when he or she has to forget something terrible you've said to rebuild your relationship.
It's not just words you must be careful of in fights; your actions can also speak loudly. Acting aggressively toward your son or daughter – lunging, chasing, grabbing or raising a fist – is unnecessary. And needless to say, making contact in this manner is entirely inappropriate. If your teen loses control and attacks you, your job is to restrain and de-escalate — never to retaliate. Likewise, leaving your child in a fight, either at home or stranded somewhere, will leave him feeling abandoned. Be present and available, even in conflict. And see your fight through until its resolution.
3. You are the adult, and you are in control
Not of your son, but of yourself. He is growing into an independent person with a mind of his own, and no amount of punishment, rage or belittling is going to turn him into who or what you want him to be. He has to find that for himself. But the best way to encourage this is to show him how to be someone you would want him to be; especially in times of crisis.
4. You are a role model
How you respond in times of stress says a lot about you and your parenting. Show your child how a mature adult responds to the world when things are not going your way. You may feel justified in blowing up and getting into a shouting match, but nothing gets heard or resolved over yelling. Make change at indoor volume.
It may be time to sit back and actually listen to your teen's point of view. Yes he may lie, and yes she may be manipulative, but somewhere deep down your teens are learning to navigate the world, and there is likely some structured and logical thinking. Acknowledge what actually makes sense, and build on that.
Fights with your teens can be stepping stones into adulthood, so make sure you're laying a good foundation. Teach your sons and daughters to resolve conflict and face an argument with good skills and goals so everyone comes out unscathed and no worse for wear.