How Does Conflict Arise?
Your teen is no longer a child, yet not quite an adult. He is struggling for independence, yet sometimes unwilling to assume the accompanying responsibility. He often wants to set his own rules, yet has difficulty following family rules.
Given such contradictions, you may find it hard to give the freedom he asks for. You want to loosen the ropes and give him some room, but may wonder where to draw the line. And, because you both care for each other, emotions exaggerate the differences.
The only way to cope with conflicts is to openly acknowledge and manage these emotions.
Needs of Dads and Teens
Begin by understanding both your needs.
As a dad, you need to feel respected. You also need assurance and a sense of security about what your teen is doing, and that he will abide by family rules and values.
Your teen needs more independence. He wants to build his own sense of self, separate from parents –a self-identity. As such, peers become very important to his sense of belonging and self-esteem. Having the autonomy to join in peer group activities is important.
Therefore, recognise that there will probably be tension in having to balance between meeting these needs. The challenge is to know how to create an environment situation that does not become excessively explosive. This allows you to focus building the father-teen relationship.
Conflict Management with Your Teen
Rather than forcefully stating your argument, you need to create common understanding. For example, instead of saying, “You are going out dressed like that, over my dead body!” try, “Daddy knows you want to look nice for the party, but I’ll worry about your safety going out dressed like that at night. Could you cover up a bit more?”
Stephen Covey says it best: “Seek first to understand. Then be understood.” To constructively manage conflict, first seek to understand from your teen’s perspective. When your teen feels understood, he will be more open to listening.
Here are some tips on how to manage two common areas of conflict:
1. Who Your Teen Spends Time With:
• Lay the groundwork early. Clearly communicate family values early on, in their pre-teens. For example, say, “Dad does not approve of you hanging out with friends who smoke, take drugs or drink. It’s important to me that you have friends with healthy habits”. Stay close to your kids. If your teen has a positive relationship with you, he will make better choices in friendships.
• Get to know their friends. Invite your teen’s friends to your home or out for fun events such as barbeques, dinners, or family outings. Make your home a warm and inviting place, so that your teen can ask his friends over. That way, you can get to know them. If your teen is dating, get to know the boyfriend or girlfriend through such group activities in your home.
• Stay connected, maintain open communication. You cannot pick your teen’s friends but you can influence his choices. If he is interacting with friends whom you disapprove of, for example those who go against basic family values, share honestly about your concerns and expectations. Explain calmly why you think he should stop spending time with them.
Manage your anger. Downplay the blaming and play up your concern. If you immediately and forcefully forbid him to see his friends, without discussion, he may then lie, avoid you and family time. He may become resentful and rebellious.
Affirm and acknowledge when your teen works with you as a team. For example, say, “I know it wasn’t easy to break off with those friends but I am proud and happy that you respected what I said.”
2. What Your Teen Wears
• Understand the need fit in, just give guidelines. Looks are a particularly important part of self-esteem at this stage of your teen’s development. If he chooses to wear something that what you think is inappropriate, talk to him firmly but respectfully. Let him know the boundaries. Explain your concern and state your expectation firmly without lecturing or putting him down. Do not say, “You look like a gangster!”
It will also do your daughter no good to tell her, “You dress like a slut!” Dr Meg Meeker in her book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, says: You can avoid daily fights over clothes, fashion magazines, music or television by coming up with some ground rules. If the culture wants her to grow up too fast, slow it down. When it comes to clothes, let her pick them within your guidelines…”
She adds, “Tell her that the point of your guidelines is not for her to be ashamed of her body, but to be respectful of it.”
• Learn to compromise and pick your battles. Give your teen some room to make some decisions, for example, about the style, colour and brand of clothes to buy. Do not control everything. Your teen needs to gain confidence in his decisions.
• Make things fun. Go shopping together. Offer to pay for clothes or accessories that you approve of, with a budget, as an added bonus.
- “Monitoring Teen Relationships”. Parenting My Teen-Internet, Radio and Podcast. http://parentingmyteen.com retrieved 26 July 2011
- Blyth, Bob. “Parent-Teen Conflict, Managing it Constructively”. Mediate.com: Mediators & Everything Mediation.http://www.mediate.com retrieved 26 July 2011
- Botto, Christina. “Trust versus Control”. Parenting Teenagers :Parent-to-Parent Positive Parenting Advice- Dealing With Teen Behaviour. www.parentingateenger.net retrieved 26 July 2011
- Meeker, Meg, M.D., (2007), Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, Ballantine Books, New York, USA
- Mitchell, Julie. “Loosening The Reins: Increasing Teen’s Privileges”. http://parentingteens.about.com, retrieved 26 July 2011
- Rudlin, Kathryn . “Six Tips for Parenting Troubled Teens. Advice For Dealing With Struggling and Defiant Teens.”http://parentingteens.about.com retrieved 26 July 2011
- Walstrom, Andrea Grazzini. “Teen Friendships”. Parenting Teenagers. The Information Resource for Parents of Teengers.www.parentingteensonline.com retrieved 26 July 2011
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
First published on 20-09-2011.