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Solve common teen conflicts

Turbulent teen years often introduce new conflicts in your family. Better communication and firm guidelines can help you resolve problems with your child.

Mother and teen son

Parents face new challenges when their children enter the teen years. It’s a time when the child may show dramatic behavioral changes as she explores self-expression, deals with hormonal changes, and generally starts to push the envelope in a desire to be more independent. The stereotypical teen can be a rebellious child who is often at odds with her parents.

Teens are also learning how to deal with peer conflict and to manage relationships effectively, so it’s important for parents to help their child’s emotional development and to model good conflict resolution in their own parent/child relationship.

1Accentuate the positive.

Verbal shouting matches are common with parents and teens, as are silent standoffs. It’s easy for a conflict to get out of control, so parents should lead by example. Pick your battles. Big-picture issues can get lost in the daily conflicts over minor things. Remaining in regular communication with your teen helps develop a bond of trust naturally, and remembering to focus on and acknowledge positive behavior reminds him that you are not just looking to find fault. Terri Apter of The Observer Lifestyle recommends not minimizing your teen’s concerns and problems. She also reminds parents that a conflict will escalate if you humiliate or embarrass the teen.

2Set limits.

All teens test limits. They push curfews and tune parents out with communication devices. Being networked with their friends is critical to teens but often causes conflicts as they retreat from family life. The best solution is to set reasonable limits, such as no cell phone calling or texting during dinner. You might even consider limiting the number of minutes your teen spends on the phone by requiring that he pay all or part of the bill.

Monitoring computer usage is another area of conflict. Some parents prefer to have the computer set up in an open area, such as a family room, so supervision is easier, or they establish a rule that the computer has to be shut down an hour before bedtime as a way to ensure that the teen gets the sleep she needs.

3Don’t bluff.

You’ve set a reasonable curfew that’s in line with what other parents are allowing, but your teenager consistently comes in past the deadline. Is your child up to mischief or unhappy at home? These are bigger issues than simple defiance or disregard of the rules, and you need to immediately figure out what’s going on and address the problem. If your teen is simply stretching the rules to test you, it’s time to set consequences — and enforce them.

More tips on dealing with teens & conflict

Avoiding conflicts when your college kid comes home
Teaching kids about conflict resolution
Negotiating with teenagers: Crazy or critical?

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