Never Argue With an Adolescent

Those of you who have children in this age group certainly understand this statement. It is a motto all good teachers live by, as it is the only way to survive the day in a middle school.

Parents, who don’t yet have children of this age, be forewarned, never argue with an adolescent; the child will out talk you every time.

Parents who choose to argue with an adolescent end up frustrated, often times befuddled, and angry, while it appears the child enjoys the test of wills. Adolescents can out last and out argue anyone. It seems they find pleasure in it.

One attribute of this age group is a growing awareness of injustice. Parents of adolescents hear statements like, “it’s not fair”, “he/she did it too”, and “you’re picking on me” as a child begins to demonstrate his own sense of justice.

While on a larger scale parents will notice older children being more aware of social injustices. Developmentally, it is in the adolescent years that children begin to notice and talk more about the world around them.

Many young people grow emotional or angry over global issues like world hunger, senseless war, and the destruction of natural disasters. They ask questions like how could this happen and what can be done to change it.

It is this same sense of justice that has children arguing to get their way until a parent finally caves in and cries “uncle”. Hence the child gets his or her way in the battle of wills.

So the question becomes, how does a parent work through issues with these strong willed children. Here are three tips that may help to keep you sane as you work through these trying years.

1.  Be fair

If your child asks to attend an event with friends, at school or other social setting, think it through before giving an answer. Unless the request is completely unreasonable, take time to think before responding. There will be plenty of requests from a child to gain more independence throughout these years. It is wise for parents to choose their battles well. The best way to truly be fair is to take a moment to consider the request.

2.  Be firm

If you know the answer to a request is a solid, “no”, then state the answer firmly leaving no room for doubt. This does not imply that parents should treat children with disrespect. A harsh tone does not need to be used. Simply, ‘no” will do.

If your child chooses to argue the point, ignore him or her. It is not easy, but the sooner a parent learns to live with the background noise of a disgruntled youth, the better. Ignoring children when they protest lets them know you mean what you say.

3.  Bargain

Most parents use this technique with younger children. One example most of us see regularly is a child crying in the grocery store. The parent offers candy or gum to pacify the child. This technique works even better with older children because bargaining with older children offers rich rewards.

Take for instance a child wants to attend a party. In the meantime, a school science project is due; it is perfectly acceptable to link attending the party with earning a passing grade on the project. At this point, the choice belongs to the child. If he or she chooses to take time to do the project well, the party is the reward.

Bargaining works with simple tasks as well. Parents can link daily chores to small rewards like watching a favorite show, playing on the computer, or talking on the phone.

Bargaining is a win/win situation for parents because it links children’s desires to a skill most young people need to learn, responsibility. This is a natural way for adolescents to simultaneously grow more independent and responsible.

Word of caution:

This technique is a great one, but it only works when parents are in the driver’s seat. Bargaining is not a two way street. It is not advisable to allow children to turn this around and attempt to set bargain guidelines. If this occurs children should be firmly told, “No.” Let them know this technique is a parent tool. Be prepared for the, “It’s not fair” argument and stand firm.

Parents, to avoid arguing with your children throughout their adolescent and teen years, it is important that consistency is established. Children need to know parents are in charge. Parental follow through during these experimental years helps children grow through the adolescent and teens years safely. It helps to set a firm foundation as children grow into responsible adults.

Happy Parenting!


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