How to Stop the Teen War Cycle

How to Stop the Teen War Cycle

There are no simple prescriptions to make parent-teen relations completely tension-free, but there are some general principles that can help.

Remember to approach situations with respect, appreciation, genuine empathy, and Love and Logic. Use opportunities to teach your children through experience, example, and empathy.

To avoid getting caught in trivial disputes, focus on your minimal requirements for your teen. By minimal requirements, we don’t mean your Wish List (get straight A’s, keep their room spotless, always speak politely), but rather what he or she needs to do to stay in your good graces (go to school and get passing grades, keep their room clean enough that it’s appropriate for more than insects to live in, contribute to the family’s betterment). Focusing on minimal requirements doesn’t mean that you stop expecting that your teen will grow up into a happy, responsible adult, but it does mean carefully, and thoughtfully, picking your battles, and making compromises whenever possible.

What does your family stand for? What does your life represent? It is only when you know what values you stand for that you can effectively evaluate your choices. It is values that hold families together, and it is values that direct our steps in life.

No matter how frustrated you feel at the moment, remember your child is a gift. Live in the present, forgive the past, look toward the future, but remember that today is all we really have. To avoid falling into the blame trap, focus on what you want to happen, not on what’s gone wrong or whose fault it was. For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me,” try “I will be happy to communicate my feelings about this situation when I feel that you would like to listen.” Instead of staying, “You’re such a slob,” try “I reward cleanliness with my time and attention.”

Instead of battling about who’s right and who’s wrong, admit from the start that you are seeing things from your own point of view. Each of us looks at life through colored lenses. Understand that your lenses are a different color than the lenses your teen is wearing. Visit: Dawn and take the Primary Colors Personality Test. It is fun, very interesting, and will help you understand yourself and your children better.

As Stephen Covey tells us: “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” Have conversations that will enable you to understand one another’s perspectives. Rather than wrangle over what you consider to be objective facts (“It’s true, you do sneer at everything I say”), cut right to the subjective reality (“It seems to me that you sneer at me a lot—at least that’s how it feels”). By doing this, you make the discussion about your feelings—which is really the point, isn’t it?

If you make an effort to remain respectful, use your empathetic response, listen without interrupting, and refrain from shaming, blaming, or calling your teen names, sooner or later your teen will follow your lead and do the same. Choose to model appropriate behavior that you want your children to emulate. Don’t misunderstand us, parents need to be willing to fight, but the fight needs to be FOR your children, NOT with them. This is a critical distinction, but an extremely important one. If kids believe you will fight for what is best for them, it is difficult to fight you for doing what you believe is the best thing for them.

Tell them, "You can count on me to always do what I believe to be the very best for your life. You may not always understand. You may not always agree. I didn't always understand of agree with my parents either. But, believe me, that ALL decisions I make, I will make out of my love, dedication and devotion to you. As your parent, it is my job to do all I can to help you grow into an extraordinary adult. Even if it means fighting for you on occasion, even if it is difficult, I promise, I will always choose what I believe to be the very best for you. I love you."

Stop high risk behaviors immediately. Parents must insist that harmful behaviors stop immediately. When teenagers do things that are clearly dangerous, such as getting involved in drugs, unprotected sex, or criminal activities, they need parents who will take on their behaviors forcefully. They need parents who will insist that harmful behaviors stop immediately. But don’t waste your energy on trivial battles that do not serve you or your children. Don’t fight battles that no one can win. By focusing on what is really important in your children’s lives, you’ll discover that you have more strength to deal with important problems that can arise. Focus on what is really important for your teen. By focusing on what is really important, you will discover you have more energy to parent your teen more effectively.

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by Dawn L Billings from her book From Innocence to Entitlement: A Love and Logic Cure for the Tragedy of Entitlement written with Jim Fay, of the Legendary Love and Logic Institute  Dawn is the founder of The Heart Link Women's Nework and creator of the CAPABLES™ Parenting Tool, an extraordinary toy.