Family Magazine

The Four Ways Of Fighting-Part 1

By Joanigeltman @joanigeltman
Probably the most positive feedback I get from parents attending my seminar is from the segment I do on THE FOUR WAYS OF FIGHTING. Who doesn't have fights with their teen. You do, you do ! I hope today's and tomorrow's blog give you the tools that make this aspect of parenting a teen a little easier.
OK, so sometimes your teen is snarky and sarcastic. They make fun of you, your clothes, your job, your cooking, just like a bully. This actually isn't as mean spirited as it seems. Here is why. Your teen's newly updated brain is now able to perform the skill of analysis. They are literally having thoughts about you they have never had before. Prior to this delightful stage, your child saw you as perfection personified. Sure, you might be unfair sometimes by not letting them eat an extra snack or stay up a little later, but basically, you were their #1! Moving into adolescence and this newer model of brain, they are now capable of seeing all your imperfections and moments of hypocrisy. What fun to see your parents capable of the same kinds of mistakes that you make! And they want to make sure that you know it. Hello sarcasm! You can reframe this by acknowledging that having a teen is like having your very own free, in-house psychologist. Perhaps their "feedback" about you could be helpful. Telling you something about yourself you may be unaware of. Sometimes this feedback just feels mean-spirited and hurtful,  and your react with anger and hurt. "How dare you be so disrespectful" you may chant to your teen. If this is how you  respond to some of these "gotcha" moments, than your teen is getting their thumbs up response. It makes them feel powerful. "I have the power to make the all-powerful parent feel bad...score!"
Instead, fight this sarcasm with humor. Don't give them the power to hurt your feelings. You do not want to give a "bully" any power. Instead, after one of those mean boy/girl comments go to them with a huge hug and say: "You are just so cute when you are trying to be a bully" You want to catch them off guard with your love. But your message really is, "no way buster are you getting away trying to make me feel small!"
There are many times as a parent that you have to say NO to your teen because their request is unsafe or unreasonable. I know there are many other times that you say NO to your teen, but that may be more of the knee-jerk reaction kind, when your teen has caught you off guard, in the middle of something or just so dog tired that you are hoping that NO will be a conversation stopper. I am not talking about that NO. So your teen has asked in their usual impulsive, not having thought through way for permission to go, get or do something. You are clear on this NO. You have no ambivalence what so ever, there is no room for compromise here. So you say NO, and all hell breaks lose. Your teen goes ballistic having already given themselves permission in their own head, and your NO is in direct contradiction to their inner dialog. This draws you into a defensive and lecturing posture, attempting to give your teen a reasonable rationale for your decision. Let the fighting begin. Unfortunately they stopped listening at NO. 
Instead try this. Because YOU are so clear on your no, you have no need to get defensive. This leaves you free to be on their side by understanding their disappointment. Instead of saying: " Well this is my answer and if you don't like it you can go find another family!" You can say: I get you are pissed at me, and you are disappointed. I know it must be hard to see your friends do something that we don't think is safe. I get it." And that my friends is it! Give a shoulder shrug which is the period at the end of your sentence. There really is nothing left to say. You have stated your case, you have empathised and understood their disappointment. Done. Having realistic expectations here is key. When your teen hears NO to something that has been a YES in their head, they will not thank you for your wonderful parenting decision. They will be mad, very mad. Understandably mad. You have crushed their dream of whatever their dream was. Its OK to let them be mad, without having to get mad at them.

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