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Health & Parenting

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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 3: Don't Escalate the Drama continued...

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.

Give some ground. While you're not going to compromise on the big-ticket issues, look for opportunities to make at least small concessions. If you've ever bought or sold a house, you know that the most satisfying negotiations end with all parties feeling as if they've gotten at least some of what they wanted. When your kids were young, you could get away with offering them a choice among options you picked ahead of time. At this stage, you need to be willing to really compromise. Obviously you're not going to concede on any nonnegotiables - personal-safety issues, for instance - but you can probably find something to give up. For instance: "We can talk about a tattoo when you're closer to your 18th birthday, but right now I'm open to your looking into a temporary tattoo." "Teens need to express their opinions and have those ideas not only listened to, but also acted on to some degree," notes Peter Scales, Ph.D., developmental psychologist and senior fellow at the Search Institute, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting healthy communities for young people. "It's a real victory for a teenager when he can persuade an adult to do things his way."

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