Conflict resolution: Four tips to diffuse conflict with your teen

The clock says 11 pm when you hear the front door unlock. Your teen is finally home — an hour past curfew, and for the third time this week. When you and your teen are at odds with each other, a conflict can get out of control rapidly. In this moment of worry, panic and anger, you both raise your voices.

What started as a calm conversation escalated quickly: you are no longer having a discussion, but a shouting match. Sound familiar? Here are some tips to diffuse conflict and get back to healthy conversation with your child:

1.) Take time to cool off.

Conflict cannot be solved in the face of strong emotions. If the conflict has escalated to a point where you or your teen cannot stay calm, take a step back. Whether in ten minutes or even the next morning after a good night’s sleep, be specific with your teen about when you will resume the conversation. When you take time to breathe and regain your focus, you give your teen the gift of opportunity: both of you can choose your responses logically, rather than behaving in a way you may regret.

How to say it: “We are both feeling angry right now, and we need to cool off. We can both take half an hour to catch our breath and calm down, and then I will see you back here for a healthy conversation.”

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2.) State the problem using “I” messages.

If things are starting to sound less like cooperative, productive conversation and more like the blame game, shift the tone toward one of personal responsibility by using “I” messages. Conflict can easily put us on the defense. Speaking with “I” as the subject instead of “you”  takes conflict in a positive direction.

How to say it: “I felt worried when curfew came and you were not home yet. We agreed as a family to a 10:00 curfew on weeknights. I was expecting you on time. What happened?”

3.) Use reflective listening to restate what you heard your teen say.

Reflective listening demonstrates that we care enough to hear the other person’s side of the story. Rather than focusing on yourself exclusively, it fosters empathy. To show your teen that you are listening, restate what you hear your teen saying.

How to say it: “So when you are out with friends whose curfews are later than yours, you feel that 10:00 is not a fair time to come home. You feel that you do not have the freedom you want.”

4.) Affirm your son or daughter with a simple reminder that they are loved, valued and important.

In times of conflict, heart rates increase, our logic gets distorted and we often think in simple, black-and-white terms: I am good, you are bad. Stop the emotional flood by simply affirming your teen. This quick, effective exchange reminds your teen that you do not love her any less, and she is just as cherished now as she was before the conflict.

How to say it: “I am feeling frustrated about the problem we are having with your curfew, but you are more important than this conflict. I love you no matter what, and you are priceless. We are on the same team and it is us against the problem, not us against each other.”

Conflicts with your teen do not need to be volatile and negative, and how we deal with conflict determines the outcome. If conflicts are becoming the norm with you and your teen, Shelterwood can help. Contact us to start the admissions process.