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Health & Parenting

Stop Fighting With Your Teen

Slammed doors and screeching arguments can be facts of life with a teen in your household. Here, how to defuse the fireworks.
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Rule 1: Establish Some Boundaries

One day when you're not mid-argument, start a conversation about the inevitability, as well as the benefits, of conflict, suggests Stern. You might say something like, "You're getting to the age where you're going to have your own ideas and we're going to disagree on some things, and that's normal. You can talk to me about anything, but you also need to know that I'm the parent, so the buck stops with me. Things may get heated, and that's normal, too. Let's set some rules now, before we fight." Explains Stern: "You want them to know that it's normal to feel angry sometimes. If you try to deny anger, it turns into resentment, bitterness, and revenge. We want to encourage our kids to experience conflict and get past it." Then it's up to you both to decide what's off-limits - behavior like cursing, name-calling, damaging your home. Stepping out of bounds will carry the consequences you, as the parent, have determined.

Rule 2: Understand Your Kid's Mindset

Remember those lovely years known as the "terrible twos"? They may be back. Tweens and teens are hardwired to establish an identity apart from their parents, which often results in fighting. Plus, your teen's life is tumultuous - think hormones, social drama, and school pressures. Once you manage to view your teen as someone struggling to maintain his footing as the tectonic plates of puberty are shifting beneath him, you're more likely to be patient and empathetic. When your kid is mid-screamfest, you won't take things personally. You'll be able to say, and mean, "I can see how hard this is for you, and I really want to figure this out with you. Let's take a breath or a break and talk this through."

Next: Keeping your cool & finding out what your teen really wants

Rule 3: Don't Escalate the Drama

Just because your teen is hollering doesn't mean you should volley back. If you stay calm, your teenager will come to see you as someone she can trust, even if she disagrees with you, says Scott Haltzman, M.D., clinical assistant professor in the psychiatry department at Brown University and author of The Secrets of Happy Families. "Teenagers are often very confused about their emotions. They need you to be stable in order for them to tolerate the intrinsic instability and intensity of their own lives." But by keeping your cool, you're modeling how to manage strong emotions, a skill she will eventually master herself (hard as that may be to believe during a white-hot moment).

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