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5 Tools Parents Need to Know to Deal With Teen Conflict

From Joshua J Soto 

“How can I be a good father when I’ve never had one …

“You never listen to me, so why should I listen to you?!”

The driving force of being a teenager is to become independent and establish an identity. Most parents experience this in their teens pulling away from them and spending more time with their friends. What I hear most parents be concerned about is the influence their friends are having on their teen with regards to how they behave, dress, and experiment with drugs. More often it becomes a concern if they see a major shift in their relationship where they find themselves at odds with their teen about their curfew or the amount of time spent with their friends.

There are 5 tools I encourage parents to use in handling conflicts with their teens that can reduce the battle of wills that feels like a tug of war.

1. Choose Your Battles

If you find yourself having the same argument over and over again, then it’s time to step back and look at what’s going on. I hear a lot frustration coming from parents when they describe communication. Often there is a negative attitude and backtalk from their teen when it comes to setting limits. There are times when as a parent you say no, and your teen will question the reasoning for saying no because they view you as being unfair. The challenge for parents comes in having to justify setting limits because simply saying no isn’t good enough for a teen to hear. I encourage parents to develop a dialogue with them.

Presenting the expectation that you have for them in exchange for them having more freedom is a necessary conversation. For example, “When you finish your chores and homework, then you can go hang out with your friends.” or “I understand you want to hang out with your friends, and tonight is a family night, so I’d like to spend more time with you.”

2. Express Interest and Avoid Humiliation

Don’t be too quick to comment on your teen changing how they dress, dying their hair, or painting their fingernails. Sometimes teens want to be noticed and to explore their identity by changing their look, which can be shocking at times. Expressing curiosity in their new look is signaling your interest in who they are rather than judgement over their appearance, which is a big pet peeve for teens with their parents and will only keep the gap between you. It helps more in your relationship with your teen to let them do something that’s harmless or a temporary trend or fad. Reserve your judgement for permanent changes to their appearance such as a tattoo, or destructive behaviors like smoking or doing drugs.

3. Don’t Downplay or Minimize Their Problems

While it’s helpful to normalize issues that your teen is experiencing such as a rejection or a bad break up, avoid saying things like “In another week this won’t even matter anymore.” or “You’re too young to be in a serious relationship.” Saying things like that can leave a teen thinking that you don’t understand them, or are judging something that’s important to them being trivial to you. Instead validate what they are feeling, let them know that what they are feeling is normal, and acknowledge the feeling they are directly expressing or communicating to you with their body language or facial expression: “I can see that you’re feeling upset, and that makes sense.

4. Show You’re Interested In Them

As often as you may find yourself at odds with your teen with having to set limits and being the “bad guy” it helps to set aside your differences and to focus on something positive. Call your teen out for anything positive they do. If you can’t think of anything positive they do, then observe them. You may find yourself surprised by learning something about them you didn’t know such as them being creative or their interest in something they feel is important. Teens may be receptive to a parent giving them material things, but what they value more than that is how their parent feels about them (even if they’ll never admit it).

5. Encourage Healthy Communication

Disagreements can quickly take an ugly turn when anger and blame are thrown at one another. Tempers also flare in parents when they take offense to being questioned by their teenager. Frustration can be expressed in saying, “You’re making me upset with your bad attitude, go your room now!” Practicing patience and modeling respect for your teen can both set the tone for a conversation rather than an argument, and help maintain your own feeling of self-control and calm. Using “I statements” in communicating helps teach your teen to take ownership for how they feel. For example, “I feel really frustrated that you talk to me like that and when you can talk to me calmly and respectfully we can talk about this again.”

While there is no cure all approach for having a positive relationship with your teenager, these 5 tools can make a big difference for how parents can resolve conflicts with their teens and keep communication open with them. Bad habits are hard to break and making new ones can be just as challenging, but practicing parenting skills can make a big difference and bring parents and their teens together.

Joshua Soto, MA is a Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Intern (639) in private practice in Irvine, CA. Josh specializes in working with pre-teens, teens, and young adults. Josh facilitates groups to assist young people to learn mindfulness, social skills, and healthy coping skills to manage stress at home and at school. He is employed and supervised by Dr. Renee Miller, LMFT (43207) at 18023 Sky Park Circle, Suite G, Irvine, CA. Josh is accepting new clients and can be reached at (714) 422-0396 or by email at

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About Funom Makama

A Medical Practitioner, writer, poet, Published Author and Novelist. I love traveling, Football and Music. I am also the proud owner of this site. Welcome to my humble abode, feel at home and navigate high level contents that will not only enrich and educate you but also entertain you. Have fun!

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