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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...

Next: Recovering from a fight, plus advice from experts on fighting phrases to avoid

So, advises Stern, tell your child, "Give me reasons for your thinking. Try to convince me that your way is better than mine, because if it is, then I want to do it that way." Obviously there comes a point where the listening ends and the limit-setting begins. Stern suggests saying something like, "I hear you, and I want to be flexible, but I'm the parent here, and I have my own ethics and standards. I'm not going to change my mind, because this is what I believe is right. I'm sorry you're upset and disappointed."

  • Walk away. When your kids were younger, you couldn't absent yourself during a fight - you can't exactly leave a little one unsupervised in the middle of Macy's. Now you can, and sometimes should, give yourself a breather. "It's OK to walk away," says Dr. Haltzman. "Just be clear that it's a decision you are making" because the fight is heading out of bounds; you don't want it to appear that you are storming off. Stephanie Sacco, mom of six in Troy, MI, finds it useful to tell her 15-year-old daughter, Rachel, "We both need time to cool down and think about what we really want to say" and then regroup later. Just don't get baited into continuing the argument, says Dr. Haltzman. Once you say you're tabling the discussion, mean it: Don't say another word.
  • Allow your teen to walk away, too. "When you're tempted to say, 'Don't you walk away from me when I'm talking to you,' remember that your teen is actually doing what you've taught him to do - that is, remove himself from a situation that's getting out of hand," says Peter Benson, Ph.D., an expert on adolescents and the author of Sparks: How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers. "Waiting allows for a conversation that's much more productive." To restart the conversation, you can say, "Now that the dust has settled, let's finish this conversation so we can both move on."
  • Know how to recover from a bad fight. When an argument is over, try to smooth things over fairly quickly. Even if he's not talking, Stern suggests, say something like, "I know this has been a rough one, and I'm sorry about that. I know that we're both in the middle of our feelings right now, but I want you to know that I love you and as soon as you feel better, I'm ready to do something fun or talk through this."

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