This article was originally featured on Momaha.com July 14, 2016.
Teens love to argue their viewpoints. In fact, if you’re the parent of a teen, you often may feel like you’re living with a pricey underage attorney or a national debate champ!
Meaningless arguments are a bummer for everyone, and there are plenty of issues that shouldn’t be up for negotiation. When our kids were growing up and still at home, my husband and I had the final word on anything physically, morally or spiritually dangerous.
On the other hand, sometimes your teen has a valid point. For example, maybe your son’s shown a growth in maturity lately and would like to have some extra privileges, or your daughter wants to talk with you and her softball coach about pitching instead of playing right field. So – when faced with a legitimate difference of opinion, what do you do?
Teach your teen to disagree appropriately! This powerful skill gives kids the opportunity to be heard, and helps them think before speaking while presenting their views in a calm, reasonable manner.
This skill is never used in the heat of the moment when anyone is upset (yelling, crying, etc.). Instead, your teens should ask you (or the person with whom they disagree) to name a good time and place to talk after everyone has cooled down and is ready to listen. Once that’s established, here are the steps to follow:
1. Look at the person. You need to be in person and face-to-face for this to work well; no texting or social media.
2. Use a pleasant voice. Make sure to speak calmly and slowly, and keep a comfortable distance between yourself and the other person.
3. Say “I understand how you feel.” This starts the discussion off on a positive note. Be sincere in your desire to come to agreement, and acknowledge the other person’s right to an opinion.
4. Tell why you feel differently. Get your “ducks in a row,” and ALWAYS think before you speak. Use as much detail as you can.
5. Give a reason. Be sure your reasons are sensible and you can support them with facts.
6. Listen to the other person. Give the other person time to present his or her view. Don’t interrupt, look bored or argue.
7. Say “thank you for listening.” Sometimes you get what you want, and sometimes you don’t, but at least you’ve had a chance to give your opinion and hear the other person’s thoughts, too.
Make sure to practice several times before your child actually needs to use the skill. Then, if you get into a disagreement with your teen (and your judgment tells you this would be an issue for disagreeing appropriately!), prompt your child to ask you to talk at a later time, and remind him or her to follow the steps.
Over time, you’ll find this skill calms things down in your house and equips your teens to navigate differences of opinion wherever they may be – and that’s a win-win for everyone!