Every good fight must have a plan. Ask yourself these questions
as you work through the conflict with your teen.
1. What is the real issue?
2. 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.
3. Reserve a time for you and your teen to talk. Remember
that conflict resolution does not occur in the heat of the
4. Share two or three specific actions that your teen can
5. Leave out any you always or you never
statements. (This applies to both you and your teen.)
6. Ask your teen if there are positive and realistic steps
that you can take to help resolve the issue.
7. The goal is not to defend your positions (dont
make it personal), but to deal with the real issues that affect
both of you.
8. If it starts to degenerate, agree to leave on good terms
and try again later.
9. End on a positive note. Write down one positive thing
that your teen has done recently. Affirm your teen by sharing
that positive trait or action.
10. Let them know that you love them and are committed to
working through the problem together.
My Teen Wont
Talk to Me
By T. Suzanne Eller
I laughed as I read the cartoon. A mother stood behind her
teenaged son and ran a can opener over his head and glanced inside.
When he turned to her with an annoyed expression, she threw up her
hands and said, I just wanted to see what youre thinking!
Its probably no laughing matter if you can relate. Its
hard when a parent attempts to initiate conversation or offer guidance
and is rejected by their teen. Its even more frustrating when
you are unsure of the reason.
I hear teens say all the time that theyd give anything to talk
openly with their parents. At the same time I minister to parents
of teens who sincerely long to break down the walls of miscommunication.
Recently I asked hundreds of teens to share openly about the things
that close the door to family communication.
Teens opened up because the topic is important to them. Parents are
the most important people in their lives. They are the greatest influencewhether
positive or negative. Teens said that they are not content with hows
your day? or turn down that music!. They want and
need more, but often are frustrated.
These are a few of the roadblocks that teens say keep them from talking
about the things that matter the most with the people they love the
Teens are labeled every day. They are judged by their backgrounds,
what they drive, what they wear and what they look like. With all
of these characterizations, the last place they hope to find additional
labels is in their own homes.
A few years back a father shared a story with me about a conflict
with his daughter the night before. She was going out with friends
and wore a shirt that left too little to the imagination. He ordered
her to change the shirt. As she left the room he commented, You
look like a prostitute when you dress like that. The father
defended his comment by saying, They were only words. My daughter
knows I didnt mean it. Beside she shouldnt be wearing
clothes like that.
Contrary to this fathers opinion, his words were costly. He
is the man that his daughter looks to for guidance and love. Her self-esteem
is built on his actions and upon his words and she will see herself
in the eyes of other men according to her fathers love or lack
thereof. The words he spoke didnt fit the situation or his daughter.
They didnt guide. They delved deep into the heart of who she
was as a person.
How many times do we find ourselves saying, youre such
a slob or you never do things right. Salena, 18,
said, If their words are encouraging, I am happy. But if its
negative it makes me feel like Im the lowest thing on earth.
Labeling our teens only confuse the issue and create deeper problems.
#2Fights are Always Ugly
Even in the healthiest relationships, people who love each other
will disagree. But one 16-year-old teen, Eleanor, said that she and
her parents fought nearly every day. At least when we fight,
I dont have to let them get close to me, she says.
Ouch. There is a difference between working through conflict and
an ugly fight. Open warfare and petty bickering cause deep rifts between
you and your teen, especially when nothing is resolved.
My son and I are both passionate. My temper simmers. His erupts.
Not long ago, we experienced an unpleasant confrontation (translation:
bad fight). We were both hurt and angry. The next day I asked if we
could meet outside and talk about what happened.
We were both wary in the beginning. I let Ryan know that I loved
him and that I deeply regretted the fight. He agreed. 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 I saw in him, and there were many. He shared frustration over
some things that were happening in his life. He was hurting because
a friend had wounded him. I asked him to let me know when he was hurting
so that I could pray for him and encourage him. Before it was over,
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.
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 a parent is out of control and a relationship
is brought to a low of screaming and fighting or physical force is
used to make your teen bend to your will, youve lost your authority
already. When you work through conflict with respect, hope, dignity
and affirmation, chances are your teen will respond.
#3My Parents Dont Really Listen
Teens want to have a conversation, but they wont attempt it
unless they know that Mom or Dad is willing to listen. Its frustrating
when someone listens just long enough to jump in to try to fix it
or to offer advice or a lecture, when all you want is a listening
ear. Many times parents miss the real issue because they fail to listen
to the end. They walk away thinking theyve fixed the problem
when they never really heard the heart of their teen.
Teens will often test a parent. They share enough to see your reaction.
If you jump in with a three-point sermon on purity or a lecture on
how it was in your day, you might as well put a no vacancies
sign on your forehead. Your teen wont be checking back in. But
what happens when you listen to the end? When you hear the heartbeat
of your teen, the challenges he is facing, the emotions hes
battling. Then you are equipped to help your teen with the real problem.
That is your moment to offer realistic guidance that will help your
teen find his or her way.
#4-My Parent Will Freak Out
Karianne, 17, doesnt talk to her parents because the reality
might be too unsettling for them. My parents know very little
of what really goes on in my life. Its not that I deliberately
hide stuff from them because Im scared of them finding out,
but more because they would give lengthy lectures on how horrible
the world is today. Its not like I am trying to be sneaky or
underhanded; its just easier this way.
How does the Christian teen tell their mom or dad that kids are having
sex in the bathroom, or that a friend just told her that she had an
abortion, or what its like to live your faith in a culture increasingly
hostile to Christianity? If the parents instinct is to turn
every conversation into a life lesson, they might miss the opportunity
to give their teen what they need the mosta safe place to turn.
We are our childrens allies, but if they cant be honest
about the challenges they face they carry their burdens alone or,
worse, make critical decisions unaided.
We have to listen first and freak out later so we can point our teens
to a God who will walk with them no matter what they encounter. God
is relevant in todays society. Hes not afraid of tough
issues, nor should we be.
Understanding these roadblocks helps us take conversation with our
teens to a deeper level. Talking with teens is not one-dimensional.
They have a lot to offer! Deeper conversations allow teens to get
to know you as well, to hear what you think and to allow you to share
ideas. Developing strong communications skills take work and time,
but the gift received is the ability to see each other in a whole
new light not just as mom or dad, son or daughter, teen or adult,
but as people.
Suzanne Eller is an International speaker to teens and parents of teens,
veteran youth worker and youth columnist. Her book, Real
Issues, Real Teens What Every Parent Needs to Know is an
open dialogue between teens and parents. You can reach Suzanne at www.daretobelieve.org
or [email protected].
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