Living with a teenager can make what was once a peaceful, joy-filled home seem like a battle zone. The inner struggle between childhood and adulthood that is raging inside a teen’s mind often leads to conflicts between parents and child. Disagreements over things like clothing, hairstyles, cleanliness, and family values can easily become the main form of communication in a home. What starts off as a minor comment can easily escalate into a full-fledged screaming match as the battle of wills continues. In order to restore peace to the home front, picking your battles is imperative for parents.
You may be thinking that this is easier said than done. But it can be done. You just have to decide which battle to fight and keep everything in perspective. There will still be slammed doors, shouted words, mad teens, the silent treatment and everything in between. However, if you decide ahead of time on what things are worth arguing over and what issues just aren’t worth it you will be way ahead of your teen and the upcoming situations.
Discuss non-negotiable areas with your partner. Decide what things are the most important to you as a family and where you are not willing to bend. Exactly how these issues look will vary among different families, but generally they are within the categories of morality, respect, and safety. Anything illegal or life-altering are things worth fighting for and insisting upon as a parent. Once you have those in place, life will be much simpler for all involved.
Teens are driven by a sense of fairness and justice. As they are learning to understand abstract concepts and think about things through other people’s perspective, they are usually willing to follow rules that make sense and seem fair. With that in mind, discuss your rules with your teenager and have them help develop the guidelines for your non-negotiables. Discuss your values and listen to their input. An open dialogue with your teen about different issues can keep the battles to a minimum. They are growing up and have a voice as well, just work together instead of against each other and your battles will become fewer and farther between in some cases.
Try to let things go that don’t hinder personal development or really matter in the long run. Clothing, hairstyle, and messiness probably don’t have long-term ramifications on a teen’s development. Of course, when those things cross the line into safety or morality issues, it is time to intervene. For example, funky styles and ripped jeans may not really matter, but when a young girl begins dressing in very revealing or sexy clothing, it can become a matter of safety and morality. Again, what exactly constitutes “sexy” or “revealing” may differ between families, so it is important to establish some clear personal guidelines. Piercings are another category that fall into this section and you must make your decision based on what is best for your child, not what you “personally” want.
Keep in mind that it is a teen’s job to develop into his or her own person — an independent, self-sufficient, adult capable of making his own decisions. The older your child gets, the less he or she is seen as a reflection of you and is seen more as an individual. Adults make their own decisions and face the consequences of those decisions themselves. It is important to give teens practice doing this in a safe and supportive environment.
Give teens more choices and freedoms as they show they are able to handle them. Compromise on issues where you are able and willing to do so. Deciding on your non-negotiables ahead of time will help minimize the battles and keep the peace in your home. Remember you want to win small battles so you win the war and raise a responsible adult in the end.