More often than not, your teen knows exactly how to push your buttons, and can take you from 0-100 in a nano second. Or maybe you are a bit of a control freak and like to have the last word, in any argument, not just one with your teen. In both cases an argument with your teen gets way out of control. In these situations both parties tend to forget what actually started the fight and have moved onto what a bad parent you are from you teen's point of view or, what an ungrateful, rude disrespectful teen he/she is from your perspective! There are no winners in this fight, and no resolution.
One of your most important jobs as a parent is to teach your teen crisis resolution skills. The model that you practice in your family, whether duking it out until everybody is either slamming doors or in tears, or avoiding conflict altogether are not productive or healthy ways to resolve conflict. Remember that however your family deals with hot tempers is what your kids will take with them into their relationships outside of your family, with their friends, their lovers, their bosses, their neighbors. So take a good hard look at what you have been modeling and teaching your children about fair fighting.
There are times that everyone loses it even with the best laid plans. You are tired, overworked, stressed to the max and when your teen pushes your buttons, you lose control. I hope this strategy will help you in those situations.
Your first task is to recognize when you have lost it. Are you screaming? Are your veins pulsing out of your neck? This does require some on the spot self-reflection, but trust me, practicing makes it easier. So you are yelling and out of control as is your teen. You recognize this and say as calmly as humanly possible: " We are both out of control, we need to take a break" And that is what you do. Do not tell your teen to leave the room, YOU LEAVE! And don't make the mistake of just moving into another room, your teen will follow you, because they have not gotten the answer they want, and are very motivated to wear you done. Leave the house if you can, walk the dog, get a coffee, sit in your car! If this doesn't seem possible than at least go to your bedroom and close the door. Some teens are relentless and will follow you to your room and barge in trying to get what they are looking for. If your teen is not respecting your boundaries, rather than getting into a fight about "not respecting your boundaries" turn to them and calmly say" " I am going in to take a shower now, and will be getting naked momentarily, hope you don't mind" and now start to disrobe. Your teen will run for the hills, trust me, no teen wants to even think about their parent naked! In either case, take whatever time you need to calm yourself. Then go to your teen and say: " I really would like to hear what you have to say. " And now it is your job to just listen. Don't start back in again with the same lecture you left off with. That will just get the fight going again. Now that your teen has calmed down as well, you might not actually hear the crazy impulsive demands you heard in round one. Maybe there will be some room for compromise now that everyone is listening, and then again maybe not. Maybe as in fight 2, the request is unsafe or unreasonable. In this case do as in fight 2, empathise with their disappointment, give a shoulder shrug, and walk away!
Stay tuned for Part 4 on Tuesday!