Communication is one of the cornerstones of parenting. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the greatest challenges for most families. Many parents talk at their kids, not with them. And many teens are just as guilty — they often get lost in arguing and rationalizing their behavior, instead of having a meaningful discussion with their parents.
The argumentative teenager is a well-earned stereotype. Disagreement is a normal part of adolescence. It is another way for a young adult to assert her independence and distinguish herself from her parents and their views and rules.
While it’s tempting to immediately squelch argumentative behavior, rationalization can provide an important learning experience. Verbal debate can help your teen learn how to resolve conflicts, organize and present her thoughts and communicate her feelings.
The rationalization process provides a good opportunity to delve into the root of the problem, too. Instead of simply saying, “Don’t do that again!” ask your teen to explain her choices. Allow her to talk through the situation and to identify where she made the wrong choice and what she could do differently in the future. Through reflection, your teen may be able to see where she went wrong without emotional distractions. Similarly, instead of using the common phrase “Because I said so,” provide valid points for why your rules and limits are in place. She may not agree with everything you say, but she can experience you as a reasonable person instead of a harsh dictator.
Talking through situations rationally also allows her to vent her frustrations and feel heard. Give her the freedom to be angry or upset – in a respectful manner. Don’t allow behavior in conflict with your family’s rules or morals just because your teen is upset. This should not provide an excuse for profanity, abuse of property or other unacceptable attention-getting behaviors. Your teen will quickly learn that her arguments are better understood and received when they are delivered in a calm and rational manner.
Finally, be an active listener in your teen’s rational thought process. Try to resist the urge to argue back or rebut her statements. Above all else, don’t diminish her feelings. Be engaged – demonstrate active listening body language that lets your teen know you are tuned in, even if you don’t agree. Non-verbal clues such as nodding your head, angling your body toward your teen and making eye contact will help her feel heard. Give her plenty of time to talk before you respond – calmly and respectfully – with your own questions, feelings and observations about the situation.
It can seem counterintuitive to allow this “argument” with your teen, but parents need to understand that arguing does not automatically equate to disobedience. By working through the situation with your child, you not only become better communicators; you build a foundation of trust and openness in your family.
To learn more about how to nurture rational thinking and “argue” effectively with your teen, contact Compass Rose Academy today.