The Strategic Way to Argue With Your Young Teen


How can Arguments be a Teaching Tool?

Much to a parent’s dismay, arguing with their child is a necessary evil that helps with their young teen’s growing maturity. As a child reaches the ages of 10 to 13, they become “more impulsive, sensation-seeking and sensitive to peer pressure” as their brain develops. This time may seem tumultuous to parents, but each argument provides a positive teaching opportunity for parents as long as they approach each conflict strategically. In a recent article, The Smart Way to Argue With Your Young Teen, author Andrea Petersen explains how parent-child arguments are an integral part of a child’s transition to maturity and guides us through psychologist recommended strategies a parent should use when approaching an argument with their young teen.

Therapists suggest that arguing is, in fact, a healthy trait in a young teen’s development.  It teaches them how to manage conflicts and promote their own point of view. Being argumentative shows that the child is making the effort to establish their own identity. It’s a crucial skill for maintaining relationships in the child’s adult life. Additionally, arguments can educational to parents as conflicts indicate what is important to their child and what is going on in their lives.

How Do I Argue Strategically With my Child?

In the nearly inevitable event that an argument arises, parents should follow 3 fundamental steps: listen, negotiate, and compromise. Yale University professor of psychology, Alan Kazdin, suggests to parents that they first “listen to their child’s point of view” then determine what they are willing to compromise on. Kazdin recommends parents “imagine 10 years in the future. Then compromise on things that are temporary (like goth makeup or laundry strewn on the floor) and stand firm on things that could be permanent (tattoos).” Rather than having a strict, “slippery slope” view, which causes children to be more oppositional, Kazdin recommends parents let their child choose from three possible solutions.

What Not to Do In an Argument

Although arguments have the potential to become heated debates, it is important for parents to refrain from certain actions such as sarcasm, name-calling, bringing up past behaviors, and especially yelling… i.e. Bullying!

“[When a parent yells] Children can feel intimidated or overpowered and they are likely to miss the lessons the parents are trying to teach. Teens will also be more likely to resort to yelling in their adult relationships.”

Parents will find that there is a fine line between being too lenient and too strict, and that it is essential to find a middle ground with their young teen.

“If they are too permissive, they won’t have the authority later on to set limits on activities that can be potentially dangerous. And if they quash arguments and require complete compliance, teens won’t learn how to advocate for themselves and negotiate with others… [making them] more susceptible to peer pressure because they are not used to having any input.”

On the contrary, positive reinforcement such as praising a teen’s civil behavior, is an effective way of changing behavior.

Finding the proper balance between authoritative and lenient is no easy feat, but is crucial for setting the boundaries within which a young teen learns to make limits to keep themselves safe. Parents may find the victories of their arguments are unsatisfying, but the groundwork they have set forth with strategic arguing will enable their children to better handle future conflicts and further develop their own identity.

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