Experts: It’s normal for parents and teens to argue; make sure you’re fighting fair

Posted at 8:58 AM, Aug 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-22 09:58:11-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- From raging hormones to developing brains, teens have a lot to handle, especially when it's time to hit the books. That's why experts suggest that parents turn disagreements into teachable moments.

It's very common among teenagers to have conflicts with their parents, says pediatric psychologist Brittany Barber Garcia from Spectrum Health. She says friction in families is often times triggered when teens try and figure out who they are as individuals away from mom and dad.

"Don’t think anything unusual or weird is going on if you find yourself fighting with your teenager more and more," Barber Garcia said. "They try and push more boundaries, they try and figure out 'How far I can go' and 'How far are my parents going to let me go?'" she said, adding it's important you know where you stand before heading into a clash. Know how much you are willing to give, remember to compromise, remain calm, and fight fair.

"It is really important to stop talking and to listen, listen to what they have to say. Your teenager is always going to want to get their point across. They want to know you’re hearing what they have to say," Barber Garcia said.

After you stop and listen, it's important to reflect back what you heard. Use phrases like "So what you're saying is this," or "I'm hearing you're really upset about this." In addition, avoid name-calling or accusations.

And remember that actions speak louder than words. "As a parent, you can model: if you do something wrong, how do you apologize for it? Or if I have Done nothing wrong, how do I stick to my guns and and go after what’s important? That’s all important things for your kids to learn," Barber Garcia said, adding that it's good to model when it's appropriate to apologize, but you don't need to apologize for having a fight.

Of course, we all have buttons, and who knows better to press those buttons than our kids. Barber Garcia says it's important you not let your kids' tone or words get under your skin. Know that it is more than okay to walk away from the situation and circle back after you've cooled down.

Barber Garcia says it is vital that kids learn how to argue well with others, because thats is a skill they will need later in life.

One last piece of advice: when it comes to sarcasm don't use it, at least when you're arguing with your kids.