So your teenage children are constantly fighting, arguing and getting into physical altercations. You’ve tried everything, but your teens just won’t let up.Believe it or not, your teens are supposed to fight with each other and it can actually help them grow into more responsible adults. You can teach your teens valuable lessons during daily fights such as how to negotiateor how to treat people with kindness even when you disagree. To make your teens more amicable combatants, try these five steps.
- Avoid Stepping In
The more you break up fights without letting your teens resolve them, the less they will learn about conflict resolution. It’s important to let your teens express their frustration because it gives them the valuable experience of dealing with peers. If you step in to prevent a fight, your teen is only learning how to deal with your authority, causing them to miss out on lessons about disagreements with others.
- Help Your TeenUncover What the Fight is About
It’s entirely possible that your teens are expressing anger to each other without identifying what upsets them. Some of the major topics in teen sibling arguments are personal space, fairness, and possessions. Without identifying their problems, they might externalize their emotions violently or put themselves at other risks.You can try to get your teens to have a more constructive fight by having each teen explain what specifically is bothering them. Upon reflection, your teens might be able to get down to the fundamental disagreement faster so they can focus on patching up the problem. A quicker resolution means less feelings get hurt.
You could try using this line, “I know you guys are fighting about the car, but what really bothers you about the other person using it? Do you feel like this is unfair, or do you not trust the other person, or what? Let’s address those issues instead.”
- Regroup with Your Teens After a Fight
After overhearing your teens duking it out, you might want to regroup with each one to offer pointers on how to fight more effectively. I don’t mean to pull out the big guns and fight more aggressively. I mean the opposite, I recommend using the cooldown period after a fight to teach your teens how to be more calm and respectful next time. If your teens were attacking each other for the sake of being mean instead of talking about the problem at hand, you could suggest ways to make the argument less personal or emotionally charged. Another way you could help is to offer ways to reframe the argument so they see new possibilities for solutions. A great lesson to teach is that as soon as you raise your voice, you’ve lost the fight.
- Make Your Teens Come Up with the Compromise
I think the next step in addressing teen fights is to challenge teenagers to come up with their own compromise. It doesn’t necessarily help your teenagers develop valuable negotiating skills if you come up with the punishments every time your teens have conflict. When your teens have a major disagreement, maybe over borrowing clothes without permission, you could try taking away privileges from both teens until they come up with a plan to resolve their beef. I suggest that you monitor their solution to make sure it’s fair and that one teen is not being taken advantage of by the other.
- Don’t Permit Abuse
Although it’s healthy to let your teens battle it out and learn how to more respectfully deal with each other, you should consider breaking up fights that become abusive. If your teens start getting violent with each other or cause emotional damage, it’s best to nip that behavior in the bud so it doesn’t cause lasting psychological effects. It’s not good for anyone in the family to have a teen that lives in fear of the other, or to have a teen learn that they can deal with their problems by being a bully. Whenever your teens cross the line from arguing to abusing each other with shameful language or physical pain, it might be time for you to step in.
One thing you could say is, “That’s enough for now. This is getting way to personal and mean, no one is allowed to talk about this argument for a few hours until we can cooldown and come back to it responsibly.”
With these five steps to healthier conflict resolution under your belt, you can make a bigger impact on your teens’ fighting abilities. Honestly, fighting abilities are important and can help your teens figure out how to stand up for themselves and make changes without coming off as too aggressive or unfair. We deal with disagreements every day, so the sooner you can teach your teens how to argue effectively, the better they will be able to manage future conflicts and come up with solutions before anyone gets hurt.
Believe it or not, your teens are supposed to fight and it can actually help them grow into more responsible adults. But only if you use these 5 steps.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.