How To Talk To Your Teenager Who Argues About Everything
As parents give their teenagers more opportunities to make independent decisions, teens believe that they should have more control over their lives. They may begin to ignore their parents’ rules in favor of their own. Both teenagers and parents need to know that it is developmentally appropriate and healthy to question what is being asked of them, as long as they are not doing it in a rude or offensive manner. Talking back often stems from a teen’s desire to get out of doing something he doesn’t want to do or to challenge their parents’ authority. It can be difficult to get through to your teenager who argues about everything without escalating their arguments.
Common Defenses Used by Argumentative Teens
- “That’s not fair.”
- “It’s not my fault.”
- “You don’t understand.”
- “You’re not listening to me.”
- “I’m not a child anymore.”
These are arguments that you can’t win. They may be more frustrated if you claim that you do understand or that you’re only doing what’s best for them in the long run. Responding by reasserting your authority may make them feel powerless, which will lead to continued arguments. Instead, bring up how you feel when they backtalk and ask what they want out of the conversation. Being passive-aggressive or avoidant does not help either of you understand what the other person wants or resolve the conflict at hand. Often, teens boys resort to expressing anger when they are unsure of how to communicate their needs.
Tips for Healthier Communication
- Be willing to have conversations, not arguments. It is natural that your teen’s defiance may feel like it warrants an equivalent response, but fighting fire with fire only adds to the flame. Keeping an open mind may mean holding your tongue and listening to what they have to say, even if you don’t agree with it. No matter what your teen says that’s disrespectful, it’s up to you to role model how to stay calm. Take a deep breath or walk away to return to the conversation at a later point if it begins to escalate.
- Be consistent with your expectations. While you may be tempted to negotiate with your child, they may begin to expect that any rules you have already set are up for debate. If you give in, you’ll reinforce disrespectful behavior and your teen will learn it’s an effective means of getting what he wants. Don’t allow your teen to guilt you into changing your mind once you’ve said no. Even if your teen says you’re the worst parent in the world, or he tries to convince you that you’re ruining his life, stick to your rules.
- Respect the decisions that they do make and allow them to take responsibility for the potential consequences. Ultimately, teens are looking for respect from their parents. However, teens tend to be impulsive, as the emotional areas of their brain are more developed than the rational decision-making areas. They are more likely to make decisions based off what they want in the moment rather than being able to look ahead and consider the impact of their decisions. Trust that they have reasons that felt valid at the time they made the decision and that sometimes, seeing that their actions did not meet their expectations is a powerful learning experience.
- Problem-solve together. Sit down and discuss your concerns about the lack of respect. Invite your teen to offer ideas and strategies about how to address this behavior and show that you’re willing to make changes as well. Explain why you make decisions the way you do to help them make more informed decisions on their own. Saying, “If I were in your situation, I would…” offers a suggestion and acknowledges that they are the one who needs to make a positive choice. Offering guidance can help them make a decision that still feels like their own.
If your son seems to be out of control or defiant in ways that have affected your family relationships and his mental health, reach out for professional help. Ultimately, helping your child break the habit of backtalk and disrespect will help him not only at home, but it will also make all the difference in his ability relate to others and be successful in life.
Equinox Can Help
Equinox RTC is a residential treatment center for teen boys, ages 14 – 18. Our students struggle with anger, depression, anxiety, trauma, and addictive behaviors. Many of the boys we work with have difficulty managing their anger and differentiating between emotions. We teach students how replace unhealthy coping mechanisms with constructive ways of dealing with emotions through adventure activities, teamwork, and community service. At Equinox, teenagers work towards building accountability, respect, and a solution-oriented approach to solving their challenges.
For more information on helping a teenager who argues about everything, call 877-279-8925. We can help your family today!