Parent Vs Teen: No One Wins a Power Struggle

You can hear the arguments now. Your teenage daughter comes down stairs with her hair dyed red, bright red. Your teenage son is yelling for a later curfew. You go back and forth. It goes a little something like this...

"Mom, come on, 10:00 is ridiculous."

"10:00 pm is your curfew, you know that."

"Everyone else can stay out 'til 11:00."

"You're not everyone else. Now stop arguing with me." (Even though you're arguing right back)

"I hate living in this house!"

"I am not telling you again! 10:00 pm and that's it! End of story!" (Of course, not really, because you both keep right on going)

"It's not fair!"

"A lot of things aren't fair. Your curfew is 10:00, now stop or you can't go out at all."

"I am not a child!"

"I am not saying it again. 10:00 pm!" (So that makes four times)

Sound familiar? By now, you are both probably frustrated, tired, and never want to talk about curfew ever again. Except you will, the next time your teenager tries to negotiate his curfew. Power struggles are easy to get into and hard to get out of. It's all about being prepared.

The first question to ask yourself is, "Is this battle worth fighting?" Picking your battles is a critical step in maintaining your sanity with your teenager. Arguing every hair dye job, piercing, bad habit and decision will run you ragged, and in the end neither of you really win. What can be negotiated and what is a firm rule? Anything pertaining to safety, for instance, would be something you may consider non negotiable. Something that violates a basic house rule may also be another non- negotiable.

TIP: Choose three to five firm house rules (i.e. curfew, homework before television, refrain from cursing) that you see as having no wiggle room. Consistently stick by these rules and communicate the importance of these rules to your teenager through your words and actions.

There is some truth in "teenagers will be teenagers." Teenagers strive for independence, acceptance from peers, and control of their lives and decisions. At the same time, they need (and want) consistent limits. Set consistent limits and consequences. And follow through, follow through, follow through. Mean what you say and say what you mean, then do it!

TIP: Think about logical consequences for rule breaking. If your teen is an hour late for curfew, they get an hour taken off of the next time they go out. If they don't do their homework and watch t.v. all afternoon instead when the rule is homework first, no t.v. the next day. When the rule makes sense to you, it makes sense to them, although they'll never admit it!

The next thing to ask yourself is, "What are my choices in responding to my teenager?" Remember the "D" word...disengage. Getting into a power struggle, fighting for control with your teen is a battle not worth fighting and pointless to win. Set the limit (i.e. 10:00 pm is your curfew), disengage (walk away), remain calm and follow through with consequences if necessary.

TIP: Think ahead about how your teen may respond. What is their typical response in arguments, for example over curfew? By preparing yourself for what your teen will say, you can plan for the most effective response.

Think about connecting the DOTS...

Disengage-avoid power struggles, set the limit and walk away

Options-when possible give your teen options; give them a chance to save face

Take Five-that goes for you and your teen; if discussion or negotiation gets too heated, agree to take five before continuing the discussion

Strategize-think ahead to the potential responses of your teen so you can plan your own strategy, or response (i.e. disengage, reflective listening, empathy, give choices).

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