Both you and your child win when you avoid a power struggle with your teen. While it’s natural for your child to challenge your authority and try to claim more independence, you have a responsibility to teach them to resolve conflicts respectfully and maintain family harmony.
If you’re concerned that your teen is breaking your house rules or trying to provoke arguments, there are ways to keep them safe and restore order. Try these tips for transforming power struggles into more positive communications.
Steps to Take Yourself:
- Set priorities. While some rules are essential, getting rid of unnecessary restrictions can help your teen to feel more motivated and trusted. Give them opportunities to show that they can handle more responsibility and let them learn from their experiences.
- Manage your emotions. You’ll appear more confident and make sounder decisions if you stay calm. Take a few deep breaths and choose words that will help to pacify the situation.
- Be positive. When your teen seems to be defying you, remember their attractive qualities and the things that they do well. Be sure to give them praise as well as constructive criticism.
- Stay firm. If your child discovers that you’ll give in under pressure, they’ll keep trying to get their own way. Stick to your decisions even when backing down would be easier.
Steps to Take with Your Teen:
- Express empathy. You can validate your child’s feelings even when you disagree with what they’re saying. Try to look at situations from your teen’s perspective and negotiate solutions that meet both your needs.
- Speak respectfully. Steer clear of name calling and personal insults even when you’re upset. Be tactful, direct, and open to discussing different opinions.
- Ask helpful questions. There’s a big difference between asking your teen why they’re so lazy and asking them why they didn’t clean their room as promised. Focus on fixing the issue rather than casting blame.
- Explain your reasons. Let your teen know why you expect certain behavior from them. They may think you’re being unfair when you’re actually concerned about their safety.
- Request their help. As much as possible, encourage your teen to use their own values to create their own rules. They’ll be less likely to complain and more likely to comply.
- Offer choices. Give your teen options when appropriate so they can practice handling greater independence. If they need to do more household chores, maybe they can decide whether to do those tasks on weekends or after school.
- Share power. Invite your teen to take on increased leadership. Use family meetings to collaborate on household decisions. Be willing to negotiate some limits such as adopting a later curfew on weekends in exchange for making check-in calls to let you know they’re safe.
- Do things together. Building a solid foundation for your relationship can reduce power struggles. Put time aside to do things as a family and one-on-one. Cook dinner together or arrange a weekend outing.
- Plan ahead. Teens who are hopeful about their future tend to be less defiant. Ask your teen what their goals are or guide them toward resources that will help them explore their options.
- Seek support. If you want more help, talk with other parents or a professional counselor. Your relationship with your teen may benefit from additional insights and strategies.
Seeking more control over their lives is a sign that your child is growing up, but you can keep power struggles with your teen from turning into arguments and fights. Work together to prepare them to take on more responsibility and encourage them to learn from their own experiences.