10 Tips for Fighting Fair with Your Teens

Posted On Thursday, 28 July 2016
10 Tips for Fighting Fair with Your Teens

Parents can turn disagreements with their teens into teachable moments by being fair and not losing their cool.

“Even though teens tend to be unreasonable, don’t let your teen push your buttons in those heated moments,” says Brittany Barber Garcia, PhD, a pediatric psychologist at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “Their raging hormones, egocentric world view and developing brains can put them on a collision course with adults.”

So what’s a parent to do? Dr. Barber Garcia offers these 10 tips for parents:

1) Keep your cool. As a parent, how you act is even more important than what you say. Instead of throwing fuel on the fire by getting angry, try to stay calm as much as possible. Take a breath. Think before you speak. Don’t let your emotions get the upper hand.

2) Zip it. “It’s really important to think about your own reactions in the moment,” Dr. Barber Garcia said. Stick to the facts, provide rationale for your position and avoid name-calling or accusations such as, “You’re so lazy.” Said Dr. Barber Garcia: “We don’t mean to do it, but it happens.”

3) Listen. Sure, some things aren’t up for negotiation; but your teens want the chance to be heard. So show respect for their opinions. Demonstrate that you are listening by reflecting back what they said. For example, say, “I’m hearing you say...” or, “It sounds to me like...”

4) Ignore your buttons. Oh yeah. Your kids know exactly how to get you riled up and push your buttons. Remember, you’re the adult. Try to let things slide instead of letting old irritations get under your skin.

5) Don’t get personal. “Teens will be very quick to hear something accusatory, such as ’You made this mistake’ or ‘You did this wrong,’” Dr. Barber Garcia said. Get in the habit of focusing on your own experience by using “I” statements instead of “you” statements. “I feel hurt when I cook a nice meal and my family won’t eat it.”

6) Be real about emotions. Sarcasm is a big “no,” says Dr. Barber Garcia, because it undermines true emotions. Even a nervous laugh or smile can be unintentionally hurtful.

7) Meet in the middle. Sometimes you need to compromise so everyone can win. Think in advance about where you’re willing to give up some ground so you and your teen can both feel good about a decision.

8) Table the discussion. When emotions are running high and the argument is going nowhere, don’t be afraid to end the conversation temporarily with a promise to come back to it another time; maybe after dinner, or on Saturday morning. This will show your teen it’s preferable to calm down and come back to the conversation with a fresh perspective.

9) Check in. Don’t let angry feelings fester, and don’t withhold love after an argument. Dr. Barber Garcia recommends giving teens time to figure out how they feel, and then checking in with them to see if they’re ready to reconnect. If they’re still hurt or confused and it seems they’re not yet ready to reconnect, respect that. But after some time has gone by, maybe a day or two, circle back and work with them to repair the relationship.

10) Don’t over-apologize. If you really lost control or said things you shouldn’t have, you may need to say you’re sorry, and it’s good to model for your children when it’s appropriate to apologize. But you don’t need to apologize for disagreeing or having a fight.

Brittany N. Barber Garcia, PhD

Dr. Brittany Barber Garcia joined the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital of Spectrum Health as a Pediatric Psychologist in May, 2014. Her primary area of expertise is in the evaluation and management of chronic pain disorders in children and adolescents. She also has vast knowledge in the treatment of psychological difficulties in youth with a wide range of chronic medical illnesses, such as diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, hematology/oncology diseases, and a variety of other illnesses. In addition, Dr. Barber Garcia has a strong background in neuropsychological evaluations of medically and neurologically complex children. An expert in working with children and adolescents and their families, Dr. Barber Garcia is also well-known for providing evidence-based interventions with genuine warmth and compassion for a wide range of psychological issues that face families today. She provides brief consultations, outpatient individual and family therapy, as well as neuropsychological evaluations through the HDVCH Pediatric Psychology Department.

Dr. Barber Garcia earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Religious Studies from DePauw University in 2006. She went on to earn both her Master’s (2008) and Doctoral (2011) Degrees from Marquette University’s Department of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology. She completed her pre-doctoral internship with the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan/Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. She went on to complete a two year postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital in the Departments of Anesthesia and Psychiatry/Psychology with their multidisciplinary Pain Treatment Service.

Dr. Barber Garcia, a native of Caledonia, MI, is happy to be serving families in her home state as a Pediatric Psychologist with Spectrum Health. She currently lives with her husband and two young children in the Grand Rapids area. She looks forward to serving children, adolescents, and families throughout West Michigan.

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