Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Laura Groves of Outnumbered Mom.
Sometimes there’s shouting. Then doors slam. The music blares. Conflict in a family with teens can escalate into quite the crisis, infecting the entire household.
A family without conflict? I don’t think there is such an animal, regardless of the rosy picture some parents may paint. Conflict is bound to happen in a family. The question is, how do we handle it in a healthy way?
If we can’t prevent conflict altogether, what proactive steps can we take to help our family deal with those unavoidable moments? Laying a foundation of respect helps create an environment that fosters working through conflict. Families with a healthy dose of respect are much more likely to see conflict as a learning experience.
Respect is a two-way street. We can’t expect respect from our teens if we don’t show respect toward each other. If parents are dictators, a teen’s obedience doesn’t signal respect; instead, it’s a response out of fear and resentment.
Some keys to respect that all family members can learn and use are:
- Listen. Not on the fly, but stop. Stop. And. Listen. Don’t multitask; make eye contact. React. Nod. Show you’re really listening.
- Check your tone. Don’t shout. Even if the one you’re in conflict raises his or her voice, don’t match it. Sarcasm can be funny, but realize it can be hurtful, too. If you indulge in a regular diet of it, you’ll lose sight of that line. When conflict threatens, a level tone goes a long way toward diffusing the situation.
- Be positive. Even if the news isn’t positive, help each other look for the up side. Don’t belittle in the face of defeat; instead, build up. Maybe this experience didn’t end well. Look for something else that may.
- Be honest. Don’t build false hope. Be realistic about the situation. Tell the truth in love.
- Show love. Voice it. Yes, even to a teen. You’d be surprised how much they really do need to hear it. And you just may hear, “I love you, too.”
- Apologize. Family members need to know we all realize we aren’t perfect. Some parents think apologizing undermines their authority. In reality, that admission fosters respect in your teens; they discover you’re big enough to admit you made a mistake. After all, isn’t that what we want our teens to do?
- Give them the opportunity to make choices. Nothing says, “I believe in you; you’re worthy of respect” more than letting your teen make a choice. Be wise, of course. But don’t get into the pattern of dictating everything. They’re teens, not toddlers.
- Give teens some responsibility. Responsibility says, “I know you can handle this. I don’t have to do it for you.” Teens know you respect them when you can step away and take hands off at times.
How does respect help a family when conflict comes? Take a look at that list above again. Let’s say there’s conflict about who did what, who said what, what to do. Imagine a family meeting at the kitchen table of teens and parents who:
- Are positive.
- Are honest.
- Show love.
- Are capable of making choices.
- Shoulder responsibility.
Tempers will still flare, and harsh words may be exchanged. But with a basic respect for one another, it will be much easier to work through conflict in a healthy manner.