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Should We Argue with Our Teens? Parenting & Child Behavior Problems

Updated: Apr 18, 2020

by: Dr. Jeff Brockman, LPC-A - New Leaf Counseling Group, LLC - Charlotte, NC

New Leaf Counseling Group has specialized in providing Professional Counseling and Therapy to Families and Relationships in Charlotte, NC since 2014. In working with and being around teenagers of those families, I have noticed a tendency in teens not only to argue (even try it in family therapy sessions until they are redirected), but also to even use arguing to derail, delay, and change the topic of a conversation deliberately. To be fair, they may not be doing this consciously.

Arguments without a mediator are rarely productive. Teens often use arguing as a way of resisting a limit imposed upon them. Arguing does, however, have some benefits. For instance, even though arguing is often sited as the number one behavior problem by Parents about their Children, arguing can actually help teens develop an increased sense of self-efficacy or autonomy.

So, how do we deal with a “behavior problem” like arguing? First, listen. Hear what your teen is saying. Second, summarize what they are saying and ask if you are understanding them correctly.

While it is important to be patient, it is also important to set a limit. Learn to say, “Nikki, I love you but I am not going to argue with you.” It is also often helpful to say, “Well, we just disagree on this issue. I’m ready to tall about something else.”

Has one of your children ever repeatedly asked you for something—seemingly hundreds of times? One helpful technique might be saying, “John, I have heard you ask this same question at least three times. I will give you an answer 2 days (hours, weeks) after the last time you ask. If you continue asking after this point, then I will not respond.” He can keep asking, but there is no more information coming - because it is not about information anymore, but about a power struggle, which is INDEED a “behavior problem”.

Frame the decision as a choice, which it IS. “John, you can keep asking and delay my decision or you can stop arguing and I will make my decision sooner.“

Dr. Jeff spent the last few decades as a teacher and minister in underprivileged settings ranging from rural Appalachia to the densely urban cities of Southern California. Now he practices as a Professional Counselor at New Leaf Counseling Group in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Jeff is currently accepting new clients , so click here and book an appointment today!

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