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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.

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).

Sure, it will be tough to maintain Zen-like detachment when your kid is pounding on your hot buttons - or your home's walls. Here are a few fair-fight techniques you can employ right away to minimize collateral damage to your relationship (and house):

Ask her to tell you what she really wants. Asked with as much sincerity as you can muster, the simple question "What do you really want?" can be disarmingly effective. "It ends the feeling of being 'caught in the loop' in arguments, and communicates to your kid that you care enough to want to understand her needs," explains Vickie Falcone, author of Buddha Never Raised Kids & Jesus Didn't Drive Carpool: Seven Principles for Parenting with Soul. After you pose the question, really listen to the answer. Now's a good time to dust off your active-listening skills. Mirror back her key points: "What I hear you saying is that you want to get a tattoo because you think they're beautiful and you've put a lot of thought into finding the perfect design. Did I get that right?" When you demonstrate that you understand what she wants and why, you're actually nurturing the relationship, even if you have no intention of giving in. 

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