If your teen children don’t get on very well, they argue and fight and even shape up to each other now and again, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Your attempts to mediate may well have failed, and your teens carry on confronting each other as per usual. But all is not lost. You may not realize it, but your teen siblings are meant to fight with each other. It’s all part of the process of them growing into responsible adults.
Of course, you can school them to negotiate and treat others with respect, even when they disagree. If you’d like to know more, here are five tips you can try.
Tip number one – stop constantly intervening
If you constantly intervene to try and break up fights between your teen children rather than letting them try to resolve them themselves, they are less likely to be able to resolve any conflicts. But they do need to be able to vent their frustrations because it creates valuable life experiences when dealing with their peers. You are stepping in means that they will only figure out how to deal with your authority. They won’t get any experience in dealing with the actual problem themselves.
Tip number two – getting to the root of the problem
Your siblings are likely showing anger and frustration without actually understanding what it is that upset them. Some expert advice on the subject talks about creating personal space, treating each other with fairness, and not being overly possessive. Without understanding the underlying causes, teens can very often outwardly display violent emotions, putting themselves and others at risk.
One way of getting your teens to have a less confrontational fight is by getting each one to explain exactly what it is that concerns them. By looking at causation, they could well be able to get to the fundamentals of their argument quicker, thus enabling them to concentrate on rectifying the problem. The faster they can reach a resolution; the less chance of their feelings being hurt.
You can say something like, “I know you two are having a disagreement about the car, but can you explain what it is that bothers you about letting the other one use it? Is it in some way unfair, or is it that you don’t trust your brother or sister? Let’s air the reason for the argument so you two can have a more meaningful discussion.”
Tip number three – reviewing the argument with your teens after the event
Having listened to your teens arguing, after the event it’s a good idea to revisit the altercation on a one-to-one basis. In the calm after the storm, you can discuss with each, certain ways of airing their differences more effectively, while showing respect to the other party.
Having this sort of discussion will allow the two combatants to calm down and try to reframe the disagreement, so that they stand a better chance of reaching an amicable outcome. One thing to bear in mind is that if you, as a parent, have to raise your voice, you lose the moral ground.
Tip number four – teaching the art of how to compromise
The next phase, when reviewing fights between teen siblings, is to try and get them to come up with ways of making compromises. From your point of view, dishing out punishments each time your teens get into a fight will do little to encourage their ability to negotiate.
Removing a teen’s privileges after fighting and withholding them until they come up with satisfactory compromises, is one option. But it’s an option you need to keep under constant review. The sooner that your teens can resolve these sorts of issues themselves, the sooner you can stop imposing punishments.
Tip number five – banning personal abuse
While it is natural and healthy to allow your siblings to let-loose as they struggle to deal with each other in a more respectful way, if it looks like the argument is about to get aggressive or abusive, you need to stop it straight away. Violence is always totally unacceptable, and if it’s not stopped immediately, it can cause long-lasting psychological trauma.
It doesn’t do anybody any good when one teen is scared of the other. Likewise, it’s very unhealthy if one of the siblings becomes a bully. If you can spot either of these things happening, whether it’s verbal abuse, physical abuse, or the use of unacceptable language, you need to intervene.
You can try saying something like, “Okay, this has gone too far. Things are getting horribly personal and nasty. Stop the argument right now, and let’s have a reasonable cooling down period, after which we can return to the argument in a more responsible manner.”
Conclusion – all figured out
By following these five tips to improve communication between your teens and resolve conflicts more amicably, you will be making big strides in terms of dampening your teens’ propensity to fight. But, developing arguing skills is important and will help your teen siblings in future in terms of knowing how to stand up for themselves and get things changed in a firm and respectful way.
Disagreements are a part of everyday life, and the sooner you can school your teens in arguing effectively, the easier they will find it to negotiate future conflicts and arrive at amicable solutions that avoid anyone getting hurt.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.