Take time to think the following through before you have your next GOOD fight.
What is the real issue? (this helps you stick to the issue, rather than resorting to old grievances)
What do you hope to accomplish?
Write down up to three specific things that you hope your teen will understand when the conversation is ended.
Write down two or three specific actions that your teen can take. Leave out any “you always” or “you never” statements.
Write down one positive thing that your teen has done recently. Affirm your teen by sharing that positive trait or action.
Reserve a time for you and your teen to talk.
Agree to listen to each other and hear the problem and resolution from both sides.
End with affirmation.
How to Have a Good Fight
By T. Suzanne Eller
Real Question: What is one thing that you wish you could change about your relationship with your parent?
Real Quote: When my dad gets mad, he’ll yell. That’s exactly how he was raised, and although he’s working on it, sometimes it still shows through. Katie H., Age 15
Do you want to have a good fight? Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Believe it or not, there are steps that can help you have a GOOD fight with your teen.
What is a GOOD fight? It is one in which you resolve conflict in a way that heals, rather than wedge one more chasm in your relationship with your son or daughter.
A good fight involves a commitment to resolve conflict. It is working through problems or disagreements and coming up with a workable solution, compromise, or plan of action.
For those of you who have experienced the pain of fighting with your teens, a good fight might not even seem possible. Let me assure you that it is not only possible, but it is a positive way to strengthen relationships within your family.
A good fight is determined from the very beginning. It’s planned. It doesn’t happen when tempers are hot and flared. It occurs at a predestined time and place. It happens when you reaffirm the love that you have for one another before addressing the issues. A good fight means that you will both have the freedom to talk about things that are important to you, and each of you agree not to say anything that is mean or derogatory.
A good fight must involve good listeners in which each agrees to leave out personal accusations. Rather than pointing out individual flaws (such as “You’re a slob”), you discuss practical solutions (such as “I want your room picked up twice a week. What days will work best for you?”).
My son and I are both passionate. My temper simmers, while his erupts. We both care deeply about issues. Once we came to an impasse and I determined it was time for a good fight. We had experienced a terrible confrontation the day before. I lost it. He lost it. Nothing was resolved. We were both hurt and angry.
I met with him in our front yard. We live on a small acreage, and it was beautiful outside that time of the year. The pond was full, and the air was light and breezy. As we stood outside, it was peaceful. We were both wary in the beginning. I let Ryan know that I loved him and that I had said some things the day before that I regretted deeply. He responded and said that he had done the same. I told him that I wanted to hear what he had to say but asked that he listen to my side as well. I promised that we would try to work together to come up with answers.
For the next hour we talked. I reaffirmed the positive things that he did. He said that he really needed to hear that from me. I listened as he shared frustration over some things that were happening in his life. I explained to him how much it hurt when he got angry over little things and how helpless I felt when I had no clue what was wrong. I asked him to let me know when he was hurting so that I could pray for him and encourage him. He gave me a huge hug and let me know that he loved me.
The angry words from the day before dissipated as we sat on the tailgate of the truck and talked. It was the best fight we ever had.
Too often, fights are flashes of anger that burn up any hope of true communication. When your blood pressure is shooting through the top of your skull, it is not the best time to fight. Those words carry weight and can damage your relationship far more than we often realize.
Real Quote: My mom is not always nice with her words, and I really let that affect how I feel about myself. Annie T., Age 18
Let your teen know that you will talk with her when you’ve both cooled down, rather than waste precious time and breath as you blast a hole in your relationship with angry outbursts.
Bickering and continual fights alienate you from your teen. It leaves a gap between you that seems impossible to close. But, when you work through conflict, you have an opportunity to see the situation from your teen’s points of view.
Real Quote: My parents and I fight nearly every day. At least when we fight it means that I don’t have to let them get close to me. Eleanor T., Age 16
So many parents are afraid that if they work through conflict instead of laying down the law they will lose their authority. Let me tell you something: When you are out of control and your relationship is brought to a low of screaming and fighting, or if you must use physical force to make your teen bend to your will, you’ve lost your authority already.
For ideas to help make your next fight a good one, check out the suggestions to "Make it Real" in the sidebar of this article.
Read Suzanne's past articles:
A Different Type of Adoption
What You Teach Me About God
Does Your Teen Feel Accepted at Home?
Are You Really Listening?
'But I’m Almost 18!'
My Teen Won’t Talk to Me
Suzanne Eller is a veteran youthworker, youth culture columnist,
conference speaker, and author of Real
Issues, Real Teens – What Every Parent Needs to Know (Life Journey, 2004). You can reach Suzanne at email@example.com or http://realteenfaith.com.
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